2015-16 NCAA Independent Preview: Arizona State begins move up to D1 hockey

By DJ Powers
Ryan Belonger - Arizona State University

Photo: Arizona State University forward Ryan Belonger will lead the offensive charge for the Sun Devils as they make the switch to NCAA D1 hockey (courtesy of Peter Vander Stoep/Sun Devil Athletics)



This season, Arizona State University becomes the 62nd member of NCAA Men’s D1 Hockey. It also marks the first time in 30 years that a school west of Colorado has played at this level.

The Sun Devils opened their inaugural NCAA D1 season on Oct. 9th versus host Alaska-Anchorage in the Kendall Hockey Classic.

Arizona State will play as an independent with a hybrid NCAA/ACHA schedule this season before playing a full D1 schedule next season. The Sun Devils are expected to join a conference in the 2017-18 season. While the team will experience some growing pains as they make the leap from ACHA (Club) to NCAA D1, it is also a very exciting time for that program.

Arizona State is coming off an excellent but heartbreaking season that culminated with a trip to the ACHA Final Four. While the Sun Devils as a team will be an inexperienced group, they do have players with NCAA experience.

On defense, Arizona State has junior Connor Schmidt and graduate student Brock Krygier, transfers from Ferris State and Michigan State respectively. Schmidt, who will be in his second year with the Sun Devils, is an excellent puck-moving defenseman who posted 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 38 games last season. Krygier is a defensive-minded defenseman with good skating ability.

Arizona State’s greatest strength this season could be their forward lines. Notre Dame transfer Garrett Peterson and Northeastern transfer Ryan Belonger lead the group up front. Team captain Peterson, like Krygier, is a graduate student who will bring some invaluable NCAA experience to the Sun Devils lineup. Belonger possesses some good speed and fine offensive skills.

While several others transfers, including redshirted junior Wade Murphy (NSH) from North Dakota, are currently enrolled at Arizona State, they must sit out this season under NCAA transfer rules. Murphy and the others will be eligible to play in the fall of 2016.

The only position where the Sun Devils do not have transfers playing this season is in goal. Junior Robert Levin in all likelihood will be the starter. The Highland Park, IL native is coming off a sensational sophomore campaign where he finished with a 29-2 record that included nine shutouts. However, Levin will be tested mightily by the team’s NCAA opponents this season. He will also get competition for playing time from two very good incoming freshmen in David Jacobson and Ryland Pashovitz.

With 15 freshmen, Arizona State will have the NCAA’s largest incoming class this season. One player to watch is towering forward Louie Rowe. At 6’6” and 235 pounds, he is the biggest player on the Sun Devils roster. The East Lansing, MI native is a power forward who thrives in the physical aspects of the game.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF