ASU men’s hockey says goodbye to Oceanside Ice Arena with a bang

ASU forwards Johnny Walker and Demetrios Koumontzis embrace after Walker’s final collegiate game, a 5-1 victory over LIU on Saturday afternoon. It was the team’s final game at Oceanside Ice Arena. (Photo by Alex Coil/Cronkite News)

ASU senior forwards, from left, Chris Grando, Johnny Walker and Sean Dhooghe skate to the bench during Saturday’s game, which was their final collegiate appearance. (Photo by Alex Coil/Cronkite News)

ASU head coach Greg Powers and senior forward Johnny Walker embrace following a 5-1 Sun Devil victory over LIU on Saturday. It was the team’s final game at Oceanside Ice Arena and Walker’s last collegiate game. (Photo by Alex Coil/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – It seemed fitting that Arizona State men’s hockey would play its final game at Oceanside Ice Arena with a chippy, physical, penalty-filled 5-1 victory over Long Island on Saturday.

With its ice divots and other imperfections, the Oceanside Ice Arena, the Sun Devils’ first home, reflected the blue-collar personality of the program, which grew under its rafters from a club team to a Division I competitor. The Sun Devils will move next year to a new multipurpose arena.

“It ended with passion and grit, hard-nosed and blue collar,” ASU coach Greg Powers said of the game, in which the teams combined for 30 penalties and 108 penalty minutes. “That’s what is going to go over that dressing room with the new, beautiful arena, a picture of Oceanside and it just says ‘blue collar’ on it. We will put a couple of bricks of this place next to it and never forget where we came from.”

With a little more than a minute left in the third period and the Sun Devils leading 4-1, Powers shifted his lineup to allow five seniors to skate one final time together. The all-senior line used nifty puck handling and timely puck movement to score the final goal of ASU’s history at Oceanside.

“It was really cool,” Powers said of the goal. “In the way it was scored and how pretty it was, it shows how selfless they all are. It was like nobody wanted to actually take the final shot.”

Senior forward Jordan Sandhu, who was credited with an assist on the goal, reflected on his career at ASU and the foundation he and the senior class laid.

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“When people look back on ASU hockey, they’re going to think of (Oceanside) as where it started,” Sandhu said. “It is nice to be able to say I played there. … I know people from all over the world after coming here. I now have friendships with guys from Europe, Canada and all over the United States that will last a lifetime.”

Senior forward Johnny Walker, perhaps one of the most recognizable names in ASU hockey’s short history, received a 10-minute misconduct penalty and a 2-minute roughing penalty with just less than 11 minutes remaining in the game, ending his collegiate career.

After the final horn, the Sun Devil players began to salute the crowd. A chant of “Johnny, Johnny” drew Walker out from the Sun Devil dressing room in an emotional scene that punctuated his career and triggered ASU’s nostalgia for Oceanside.

Oceanside was a rare venue in college hockey. The players looked at its flaws as a home-ice advantage rather than a recruiting or practice disadvantage.

“It was never the prettiest barn that I’ve ever played in,” Dominic Garcia said. “We had nice amenities for us and teams hated playing here. I think, just knowing we had that advantage and using it, we just suffocated teams and imposed our will.”

Garcia, who exhausted his NCAA eligibility after the 2020-21 season, remained with the program as a graduate assistant.

Freshman forward Josh Doan, who looks forward to building new memories in the Sun Devils’ state-of-the-art arena, wished to send off the senior class and the community rink with a successful weekend.

“I think we owe it to those guys that have been here since the beginning,” Doan said after a practice before the LIU series. “There are a lot of memories in this rink that we’ve shared together. So, if we don’t leave this rink with a positive weekend, I think we let those guys down and the guys that have played in this arena in the past.”

Doan and the rest of the Sun Devils delivered on that promise with a sweep of LIU to secure a .500 season and a 13-6 record at Oceanside.

Powers looks forward to having stars from the Oceanside era of Sun Devil hockey open up the new multipurpose arena with an alumni game before the start of the 2022-23 season.

“They are the reason we’re here and they are the reason (the multipurpose arena) was built,” Powers said. “That is the way it should be. Nobody else should touch that ice before these guys all skate on it first.”

Alex Coil ah-lex coil
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Alex Coil expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Coil, who is in Barrett, the Honors College, was the broadcasting and media relations manager for the Florence Y’alls baseball team in 2021. He is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.