It has been an incredible year of firsts for the Arizona State Sun Devils hockey team.
Three months ago, the Devils opened their first season at the NCAA Division I level by routing archrival UA on the Arizona Coyotes’ home ice.
On Tuesday, they hosted their first NCAA D-I opponent when they lost a hard-fought game to UConn at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
And this weekend, they’ll head back to Gila River Arena to host three fellow NCAA D-I schools in the inaugural Desert Hockey Classic.
“We’re excited that we’re exposing hockey people here in Phoenix to college hockey through more than just ASU but through three other programs, as well,” said ASU coach and former Sun Devil goalie Greg Powers.
“College hockey is much different than the NHL. It’s just a different brand that I think fans will really be drawn to.”
The Sun Devils’ first opponent will be No. 12 Yale, the 2013 NCAA D-I champions, at 8 p.m. Friday. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks, with Coyotes broadcasters Matt McConnell and Tyson Nash on commentary.
ASU will play UConn or Michigan Tech in its second and final game of the tournament Sunday at 3 p.m.
The tournament is part of a series of games ASU will play on the Coyotes' home ice this season.
“The Coyotes have been good to us since the day we announced (our move to the NCAA level), and they reached out and genuinely want to help,” Powers said. “We’re grateful for their support, and we’re excited to go out there again this weekend.”
At the Desert Hockey Classic, Powers hopes his players will receive a level of support similar to the 5,000-plus fans who came out to watch ASU blow out UA 8-1 in Glendale on Oct. 3.
“For Valley hockey fans to get exposure to Division I college hockey even outside of Arizona State is a big deal,” he said. “Hopefully a lot of people bring their kids that play (hockey) out here and they’re able to see four Division I programs play over the course of a weekend.
“And we need support. We need support while we’re building this program against some of the top teams in the country, and there’s no better weekend than this weekend to come out and start giving us that support.”