PHOENIX – For the Arizona State women’s hockey team, winning and sending a message of unity are equally important for the Sun Devils to increase the team’s exposure in their march to becoming an NCAA Division I program.
ASU next’s opportunity to take the club program to the next level comes Thursday in its first national tournament as a part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), which serves as an alternative to the NCAA for collegiate affiliated non-varsity programs.
The Sun Devils enter the matchup against Maryville University with their best record and ranking in program history, finishing seventh in the ACHA Division I rankings with a record of 18-4-2.
“I’m speechless when I think about it, and the skill that continues to grow year after year, ” said Lindsey Ellis, who enters her seventh season as coach. “The excitement for our program and all over the country, it’s really exciting. And obviously, I think we can continue to go further every single year.”
As a former ACHA Div. I player at Miami University-Ohio, her coaching style has aligned perfectly with this group and the growth process has been smooth with her prior leadership experience.
It has been no easy task, as the women’s hockey team took a similar path as the men’s team to transition from the ACHA to the NCAA. It’s a goal that Ellis believes is not only possible but has already been done.
“I think it’s really important that we are doing very similar steps to what they (Sun Devil men’s hockey) did right there. They’re growing, the ACA presence is getting better, and the ACHA, eventually, started mixing in Division III and Division I teams into their schedule when they were ACHA still. So that’s obviously something we want to do in the next 5 to 10 years.”
Senior forward Andi Main is one of seven seniors on a young roster, and the ideas of continued growth and never being satisfied fully encapsulate the mindset of this rising team.
“I think we have very similar goals as the men’s team did when they first started,” said Main, who has played in 23 of 24 games this season. “Obviously, our huge goal of the season was to make nationals and then the next thing will be to win a national championship. And that is exactly what the men’s team did.
“We definitely want to showcase that we’ve grown from a team that not many people knew was on the map, to one that people are talking about and a team that other teams want to play across the U.S.”
There is no doubt that ASU continued to break down barriers and improve each season, but it has not stopped the players and staff from giving back and looking toward the next generation of women athletes. It’s a message that senior defenseman Karlie Chadwick and the rest of her teammates continue to carry each time they lace up.
“I think it’s just playing at a collegiate level. That’s what every girl wants to play, that’s the highest, you know, feasible level that anyone can really play at if you’re a girl,” Chadwick said. “So I think that’s inspiring, and I also know that our team really focuses on the younger girls and getting them involved. It shows how we’re building it all together and encompassing all that.”
The process of moving into the NCAA will be arduous, but with the Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League (NHL) sharing Mullet Arena with the Sun Devils for a short time, ideas are swirling around ASU women’s hockey being their successor.
Until then, the Sun Devils will continue their campaign for the NCAA, and Ellis has trust in the process and has her sights set on the present goal of winning nationals.
“We’re definitely on the map in terms of who to watch out for,” Ellis said.
“I think we actually kind of have an advantage just because a lot of teams don’t see us because we’re so far West. So going in, I’m pretty sure there’s some teams that are underestimating us or some teams that really just have nothing, no idea about us. So, you know, I think we have the upper hand going into nationals knowing that, you know, we can do this.”