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ASU hockey player turns his game around, gets his chance on the ice

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TEMPE – While he doesn’t lead in goals or assists, junior forward Chris Blessing is providing inspiration on the ice that’s helped Arizona State’s men’s hockey team to a 8-0 start, according to head coach Greg Powers.

Blessing was a part of the club team last season when the Sun Devils won their first-ever American Collegiate Hockey Association national title, but he hardly saw the ice and was almost cut from the roster.

“He was out of shape for the most part, especially for a kid who is out working on the ice this rigorously every day,” Powers said. “But he had so much talent and we could see it, so it was frustrating as a coach to see a kid not use his talent to the best he could.” listen

Blessing transferred to ASU after playing as a freshman for NCAA Division III University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Between his move to Arizona and the offseason, he gained weight and lost a lot of his physical game.

“Hockey is definitely a mental game,” Blessing said. “But for me personally, I know that where I was physically before coming into this season. That’s what I really needed to change.”

Blessing said he spent his summer in the gym to make those changes. The result has been a lot of playing time as well as three goals and six assists.

“I’m pumped,” he said. “It’s been a good year so far and hopefully it keeps getting better.”

ASU’s fast start has earned it the No. 1 ranking among American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I teams. Its victories include a sweep last week of arch-rival Arizona at Oceanside Ice Arena.

Powers said the team had a lot of great players last season, and most of them were planning to return. In order for Blessing to keep his spot, he needed to make some changes.

“I told him, you have to come back in shape or maybe not be on the team,” Powers said. “So he did; he transformed mentally, physically, and now he’s a go-to guy.”

It was that transformation that Powers said made Blessing an inspiration to his teammates.

“Their elevated confidence in him and more respect for how he put in the work in the offseason has elevated his game and his approach to everything,” Powers said. listen

And even though Blessing doesn’t lead in any one area, Powers said it’s his overall attitude that makes him valuable.

“He was a great kid last year but now it’s really cool to see a kid with his approach and attitude and his work that he’s put in be rewarded,” Powers said. “It’s cliché, but hard work, it pays off and he’s proof of that.”

Blessing said part of his motivation to improve came from the camaraderie among players.

“You’re never going to find a sport where the guys are as close as hockey,” he said. “We’re all brothers, we all see each other as family, we all have each other’s back; It’s just a really cool thing to have.”

It’s this brotherhood that Blessing said has the team in the running for another championship, one that he plans to be more of a part of this time.

“We’re the king of the hill right now,” he said. “We got to keep playing, keep working and keep improving; we definitely have a shot.” listen