Brian Parson is surrounded by more likely candidates.
Guys who are Canadian or grew up on the East Coast. Places where hockey is more commonplace than where the desert-dwelling Desert Vista graduate sharpened his hockey skates.
Then again, maybe that is why Parson was named Arizona State’s alternate captain.
It was a sign of respect for someone who’s against more difficult odds compared to those who grew up in areas where hockey is often the No. 1 sport and the game is shared from generation to generation.
Whatever the reason for his captaincy, he will go down as one of the Sun Devils’ most successful players tagged with the game’s traditional “A.”
Arizona State, a club hockey program, entered the final weekend of the regular season against Arizona at 31-7-1.
“You’re working at a local rink and it’s a team full of Canadians and guys from the Midwest and East Coast,” Parson said. “I’m just the Arizona guy that’s been here every year.
“Now I made it to being a captain.”
And the Sun Devils made nationals as they will travel to Chicago next weekend to play in the ACHA Men’s Division I National Championships.
Arizona State is seeded No. 2 and received a bye in the 20-team field. The Sun Devils await the winner of the game between No. 15 Navy and No. 18 Rutgers.
“We don’t know much about either team,” ASU coach Greg Powers told sundevilhockey.com. “Either or, we’ll be ready to play.
“It’s really exciting now that we know what’s in front of us.”
Parson put much of the reason for success on Powers, who has managed to get quality recruits to go against the grain and head to a school in the Southwest.
“Hopefully in the future, we can get this to go NCAA,” Parson told sundevilhockey.com. “But just considering everything we’ve been through these past four years, it’s been better every single year. We haven’t taken a step backwards at all. Greg Powers is doing a great job and he’s definitely taking this program in the right direction. I definitely see good things for the future of this club.”
The Sun Devils’ 31-man roster also includes Desert Vista graduate and ASU senior Kyle Dietriech, the team’s backup goalie.
He played goalie for Desert Vista from 2004-2006, where he won the 2004-2005 state championship.
In six starts this season, Dietriech has gone 5-1 with 2.72 goals against average and 0.89 save percentage. In his previous season, the junior net-minder posted similar numbers with 2.00 GAA and .84 save percentage.
Overall, it has been a historic season for the Sun Devils as they opened the year 18-0 and knocked off Penn State for the final win in that streak. They’ve gone 13-7-1 since and hoped to knock off Arizona, which had not beaten ASU in the 30 previous games, twice to build some momentum heading into nationals.
“This is a team, whether we’re down or up, we just find a way to win,” Parson said.
Parson has been part of the transformation of the program that has gone from middle of the road to finishing last year ranked fourth in the ACHA.
In his four years with the team, Parson has shown why he deserves to wear the “A” on his sweater. He leads by example, playing a physical style while only earning 171 penalties-in-minutes in 136 games.
Not bad for a kid who learned the game by starting out with a street version of the game.
“All the neighborhood kids played street hockey,” Parson told sundevilhockey.com. “Once I saw the kids around the corner playing, I just picked it up with them. I remember putting on a pair of Rollerblades and just loving it. That was the neighborhood sport.”
Parson, who is 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, doesn’t know what his future holds as far as his playing career, other than once the Sun Devils show up in Chicago there is a possibility of playing four more games.
“If I want to take it to the next level, I know that there’s opportunity to,” he told sundevilshockey.com. “As of right now, I’m just looking at a national championship. I’ll figure the rest out later.”
• Will Argeros is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Staff writer Jason P. Skoda contributed to this article.