Story by Andrew Bell
There is a ranked college hockey team in Arizona that is among Division I leaders in wins in
It might sound bizarre, but this has been the story in the fourth year of the Arizona State hockey program, which is currently No. 13 in the nation and has racked up 16 wins. The Sun Devils are on pace to make the NCAA tournament as an independent team, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 1992 (Alaska Anchorage).
A big reason for the success has been the reliability of the team’s junior goaltender Joey Daccord.
He is top-15 in goals against average, he is fourth in save percentage, he is 13th in win percentage, and he leads the nation in shutouts with six. Daccord has also started and played in every game this season.
“Above everything else, it’s just his focus. His ability to stay locked in. He has developed that,” said head coach Greg Powers when asked about Daccord. “That all comes with experience. That’s why Joey came here (to ASU). He had a lot of options, but he knew he was going to get a lot of starts, see a lot of pucks over his first two years, and develop hopefully into what he is now. Fundamentally, he’s always been just as good as he is now…His brain is caught up with his physical ability. He’s just unbelievable.”
A highly-coveted goalie prospect out of North Andover, Massachusetts, Daccord’s father was a goaltending coach who trained current New Jersey Devils netminder Corey Schneider.
Daccord emulated Schneider when he played at Boston College, and that is why he dons the number 35 on his sweater at ASU.
In the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Daccord was selected by the Ottawa Senators as the 199th pick in the seventh round. He played a year of junior hockey in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in 2015-16 before coming to Tempe for his freshman year in 2016-17.
To those not familiar with NHL draft rules, college hockey and the ascension to the professional ranks isn’t similar to sports such as college basketball or football.
Players who are 18 years of age or older can play college hockey while the NHL team who drafted them still has rights to the player. However, after a few years, they either lose their rights and become an unrestricted free agent, or they sign with the team.
For Daccord, he will make a verdict after this season. If he elects to stay at ASU for his senior year, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and he can be re-entered in the NHL Draft, or he can sign with the Senators.
The clock is ticking, but Daccord’s season with the Sun Devils is still what’s in front of him. So, what makes him such a talented prospect in the eyes of the Senators and other NHL franchises?
At 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, Daccord has intangibles that can help him at the next level. He is quick going post-to-post, there is hardly a shot that he gets beat on down low, and then there is the flare for the spectacular with acrobatic saves.
ALERT: Highway robbery in Glendale
@JDacs35 behind the wheel pic.twitter.com/JiU3xRhXAz
— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) January 6, 2019
But perhaps one of Daccord’s most compelling attributes is his ability to play the puck. Last weekend against Boston College, the goaltender nearly netted an end-to-end empty net goal.
THIS close to a goalie goal! ? pic.twitter.com/bmMC3vFrLE
— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) January 6, 2019
Earlier this year, he recorded an assist on a stretch pass to sophomore forward Johnny Walker. There were also instances where his ability backfired, such as a turnover behind his own net that Daccord sustained against No. 16 Clarkson in December. The turnover turned into a goal in his own net.
Regardless, the ability to make breakout passes and create quick transitions is an intriguing quality.
“I think it’s a differentiating skill set. There is a lot of really good goalies out there, especially in college hockey and at the next level,” Daccord said. “I think from a differentiating standpoint and seperating yourself from other goalies, it’s that x-factor that maybe another goalie who is very similar to me in terms of stopping the puck, but maybe doesn’t have the same skill level handling the puck, maybe that’s something that gives me an edge on them.”
Daccord often takes shots in practice, a skill he said dates back to when he was a kid, and used to shoot pucks in his basement. Some coaches wouldn’t like their goaltender to play the puck as often as Daccord does. However, it’s a different story at ASU.
“All of the coaches, they let me do my thing, which I am really appreciative of,” Daccord said. “Some coaches, I could have messed up the first time I played it (the puck), and they’d say ‘Don’t leave your net.’ They kind of give me free-range to do what I want to do, and usually it helps us.”
Now in the face of a possible NCAA tournament berth and a professional career afterwards, Daccord has a big decision to make after his college season. Ottawa’s current starting goaltender is 37-year old Craig Anderson.
The team’s backup netminders have been a carousel all season, and if given the right opportunity and the proper development, Daccord could find himself with a chance in Ottawa.
Daccord has left his mark at ASU, and don’t be surprised if he becomes the first Sun Devil to play in the National Hockey League. As some people have already done, take note of the name right now.
“The other day, me and a couple teammates were out for breakfast and ran into people who came up to us, and were like, ‘Hey, you’re on the hockey team. You guys are killing it. Keep it going.’ When I came here, that wasn’t really a thing,” Daccord said. “People wouldn’t recognize ASU hockey players out on the street or out at breakfast. It is kind of a credit to what we are building here.”