Arizona State goalie Moore seeing senior season go from ACHA to NCAA to training with Matthews
Picture this: You’re participating in college hockey. You’re competing against your rival school. More than 4,000 fans are in attendance. The opposing crowd starts berating you with personalized chants. They even start chanting your recent ex-girlfriend’s name in an effort to deter you from your game.
Now, imagine this happening six times a season.
Bronson Moore, goaltender for Arizona State’s ACHA hockey team, has lived out this particular dream/nightmare for two seasons now. Any game against the University of Arizona turns into an all-out war, and it remains a fierce rivalry.
Admittedly, Moore has relished the experience.
“Playing hockey at Arizona State has been a great experience,” Moore said. “I’ve grown as a person and a player, and I can’t thank my coaches and teammates enough for being there along the way.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore’s de facto senior season has played out vastly different than intended. Nonetheless, it’s been a season that the Arizona State hockey community will not soon forget.
In a recent podcast interview with The Hockey House, Moore talked about his hockey background, and what led him to eventually commit to ASU.
“I first left home at 15. There’s not a lot of youth hockey in Tri-City (Washington),” said Moore. “I moved to Seattle and played there for a year. Then, I played two years of AAA in Wenatchee, Washington. Then I came out to Minnesota to play juniors for two years. After, that I decided it was way too cold, and I didn’t want to be here anymore.”
For someone like Moore, who played Tier III juniors, he was then faced with a tough decision. Where should he continue his playing career? More importantly, where should he continue his education?
There were multiple NCAA Division III offers. The bulk of them were in small, rural communities in the Midwest and northeastern parts of the country. None of these offers excited him.
Moore wants to attend medical school after his competitive hockey-playing days are behind him.
“You want to get a degree from a school that someone’s actually heard of before,” Moore told The Hockey House. “Nobody’s heard of a lot of these D-3 schools. A big university degree looks much better than a degree from a liberal arts school.”
Where does this leave him?
Arizona State University
Moore decided to pick up the phone and call Tait Green, head coach of the highly-regarded ACHA team at Arizona State. The following season, he was the starting goaltender for the Sun Devils.
Bronson played in 54 games over two years for the ACHA team. He was an instrumental part in bringing the team out of a two-year slump.
“Bronson’s been a steady presence on our team ever since he arrived,” said ASU captain Zach Kowalchuk. “He’s a loud presence and it shows how much he cares about hockey and making himself better.”
Moore has made quite an impact on the ice, as well as on those around him during his time at ASU. But his experience in the desert doesn’t end with the pandemic.
While understandably disappointed about not being able to compete for a national championship in his final year at ASU, he has said that it led to other dreams of his coming true. The first of which would be a dream for just about anybody in the world of hockey.
With the NHL season in limbo, many players were forced to fend for themselves when it came to getting on the ice and staying in shape. And, as we all know, Arizona native Auston Matthews spends much of his down time in his home state.
Guess who else decided to spend his “offseason” in Arizona? Connor McDavid.
Jonathan Toews, Mathew Dumba, Anthony Duclair, Shane Doan, and others were in attendance as well.
Green noticed the group skating every morning at ASU’s home rink in Tempe, the Oceanside Ice Arena. Luckily, they happened to be in the market for an extra goalie. Lo and behold, Moore was given the opportunity to skate with this group of NHL all-stars every morning for two weeks straight.
“It was probably the best skate going on in the country. Or in the world,” said Moore. “I was training with those guys every day, being in the locker room with them and hearing their stories, and it was pretty fun to be a part of.”
In the grand scheme of his personal career, these skates were debatably only the second best thing to have happened to him this season.
The Sun Devils’ NCAA Division I team temporarily joined the Big Ten for the current season. They’ve been playing the entire season on the road. In order to be eligible to play games, each team must have at least two rostered goalies at all times.
Soon after the season began, NCAA coach Greg Powers placed a call to Moore. Powers explained the situation and asked if he would be willing to help out the team if circumstances went awry.
That phone call was in the first semester. Moore didn’t even see his new team because they had already left for their road trip before he was officially deemed eligible. And then, he went back home to Washington for winter break.
Come early January, second semester began. An injured Sun Devil skater who was rehabbing in Tempe was cleared to rejoin his team in South Bend, Ind. He and Moore got a few skates in before flying out.
This is where, according to Moore, the story becomes a roller coaster.
“One morning, he shot a puck through my cat-eye (hole in the center of a goalie’s face mask),” said Moore.
“His dad happened to be a leading orthopedic surgeon in Arizona. So I go over to his house, he lays me down on his kitchen counter, and he does my stitches right on the counter.”
Moore then went home where he says the adrenaline wears off, and now, the cut above his eye is throbbing in pain. It was then when he received a call from Powers.
He was expecting a courtesy call, thinking that Powers would be checking in with him on account of his injury.
“That’s how the conversation led off,” Moore says. “Then he followed up with, ‘There’s a situation, and we need you to fly out Sunday morning, and join us on the road.'”
As the saying goes, this 48-hour roller coaster ride saw Moore getting hit in the forehead through his cage, stitched up on a kitchen table, and then jumping on an airplane to join the NCAA team on a 20-day road trip.
Moore joined the team for the series against Notre Dame, and travelled to Wisconsin and Minnesota as well. All along, the thought process being that he would serve as a backup or third-string the whole time.
Said roller coaster ride continues on January 21, in a game against the No. 4-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers. Goaltenders Justin Robbins and Evan DeBrouwer had played 20 and 26 minutes of the game, respectively. The deficit was 8-0.
This was as good a time as any, Powers thought, for his third-string goalie to get his first shot at NCAA D-I playing time.
With the result already being a foregone conclusion, Moore stepped in and played just under 14 minutes, stopping six of eight shots.
ACHA alternate captain, Austin Palumbo, had an interesting take on Moore’s journey at ASU.
“Being someone whose team was full of players cut by the NCAA program, I never thought I’d see the day where someone was able to go up to that team,” Palumbo said.
This marked the first time that an ACHA player had successfully made the jump up to the Sun Devils’ NCAA team. An iconic moment for all involved, and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
“He’s always working hard, and has a really high compete level so I’m not surprised that he was able to make the jump.” said Kowalchuk.
The mark that Moore has left on hockey in the desert is clear to see.
“Bronson has left a legacy at ASU that is unparalleled,” said Palumbo. “He was one of the most influential in the locker room because he was great at making things relaxed and fun for the boys. He fulfilled everything that ASU hockey epitomizes: respect, accountability, and tradition.”
From the way his teammates and coaches have spoken about him, to the way that he carries himself day in and day out, Moore’s name will assuredly be etched in history.
“I will forever be a fan of both the ACHA and NCAA teams at ASU,” Bronson said. “Hockey in the desert will be on top in no time.”
Photos/Brad Rempel/University of Minnesota Athletics
— Garrett Brown
(Feb. 2, 2021)