TEMPE — In a span of less than a week, Joey Daccord started in net for ASU's first-ever NCAA Tournament game, became the first Sun Devil to sign an NHL contract, and made his first career NHL start.
You'll forgive him it that all hasn't sunk in just yet.
"It all almost happened so fast that I haven't been able to process it yet," Daccord said Wednesday at Oceanside Ice Arena. "In the blink of an eye, I go from being a college kid to being in the public eye. It was a wild experience. It almost doesn't feel like it happened. It was so surreal."
A Massachusetts native, Daccord became one of the top goaltenders in NCAA hockey. He helped guide the Sun Devils to their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid with 21 wins, an outstanding .926 save percentage and 2.35 goals allowed per game in the 2018-19 season.
On April 1 -- just two days after starting for the Sun Devils in their first NCAA Tournament game -- Daccord made history by becoming the first-ever Sun Devil to sign an NHL contract, with the Ottawa Senators.
Three days after signing that contract, Daccord was thrown right into the fire by making his first career NHL start, on the road vs. the Buffalo Sabres.
"It's so much faster," Daccord said of the NHL game vs. the college game. "They're the best players in the world for a reason. They can make amazing plays when they're not even looking. I only really had one practice before my first game, so it was hard to adjust to the speed that quickly because the shots came off the stick so much quicker and the guys are so much faster.
"But I felt like once I got through the first period, I really settled in and was able to get all the timing down."
Daccord and the Senators fell 5-2 to Buffalo, but Daccord had a more-than-respectable debut, stopping 35 of 40 shots he faced.
Couple nice stops by Joey Daccord pic.twitter.com/LyvU4Ttlrp— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) April 4, 2019
"I thought I played really well, especially under the circumstances, all the traveling. I think in seven days, I was on 10 different flights, cross country a few times," he said. " On top of that, being a college kid and playing my first NHL game -- really, I had one practice and one morning skate. So, in two short skates with the team, it was like, you just get dropped in a bucket, and it's like, Hey, let's see what you can do, kid.
"All the guys on the team and the staff were supportive of me and really happy for me. They just told me to play my game, so once I got out there, I tried to do that, and I thought I played pretty well."
After spending a few days as the talk of Canada's capital, Daccord is back to being just another college student in Tempe, with classes to complete before the end of the spring semester. A sports business major, Daccord isn't far away from graduation -- and despite his new NHL contract, he said earning his degree is important to him and his family.
"Hockey's awesome, and being able to make money playing hockey has been a dream of mine my whole life -- but at the same time, at the end of the day, I can't play hockey for the rest of my life," he said.
"For me, the degree was extremely important to me. I actually made a promise with my parents and my grandparents before I came to school that, if the opportunity ever arose to leave early and play professional (hockey), that I promise to finish my degree, and I plan to hold that promise."
Under head coach Greg Powers, the Sun Devils became the fastest team ever to advance to the NCAA Tournament, doing so in just its third full season at the Division I level. Daccord believes that success, along with his personal achievements and the creation of a new, state-of-the-art arena set to break ground later this year, will help the Sun Devils continue to ascend the collegiate hockey ranks.
"I think it just proves that, for this program, the sky's the limit," he said. "Especially once we get the new arena and the new facility, this place is going to be one of the top destinations in all of college hockey to attract the highest and biggest recruits. I think in a matter of 5 to 10 years tops, this place is going to be a top-10 team every year and going to be popping out NHL players."
"When I committed to Arizona State, we hadn't played a game of Division I hockey yet. To go from committing here and putting all my faith in Coach Powers and Sun Devil athletics without having a game played, to three years later playing in the National Hockey League is pretty crazy. I hope that with what I've tried to accomplish here and what I've done here, people will see that you can come out here and you can be a professional hockey player. You can come out here and achieve any dream you want."