Semptimphelter Embraces New Role to Take Hockey to the Next Level
TEMPE –– "I connect so strongly with the team identity: blue collar, earn everything. I feel like that relates to my story and my career."
At this moment, TJ Semptimphelter is riding high in the No. 1 spot between the pipes for the Arizona State men's ice hockey team. The sophomore goaltender finished four-straight road starts to kickoff the 2022-23 season, including 157 saves and his first-ever collegiate shutout.
But this time last year, Semptimphelter was a rookie at Northeastern, riding the bench behind Devon Levi, the Mike Richter award winner for most outstanding goaltender in college hockey. An elite goaltender in his own right, Semptimphelter played eight games, winning four for the Huskies last season and earning the Eberly Award for best save percentage in The Beanpot; a tournament that hosts the four major Boston collegiate hockey teams. But Northeastern had their man in Levi, so Semptimphelter decided to take his chances in the transfer portal.
"My initial reaction when he went in (the transfer portal) was that he was THE number one priority," said head coach Greg Powers. "I watched him in the Beanpot and immediately fell in love with his game. I love how he competes and how athletic he is in net. Then after getting to know him and speaking over Zoom and on the phone I knew deep down he was the guy who can help get this program to the next level in every way."
"Coach Powers played a huge part in winning me over," said Semptimphelter. "Just his honesty and enthusiasm about the program. It also helped that I knew Timmy (Lovell), (Josh) Doan, and the twins (Ty and Dylan Jackson, also Northeastern transfers) who were all coming here so I felt comfortable making that transition."
Semptimphelter had an exceptional summer working with Liane Blyn, the director of sports performance at Sun Devil Athletics who specializes with the hockey program and helped him grow as a player off of the ice. His first experiences around the coaching staff helped him know he was in the right place to help the program succeed this season.
"I was super excited when I spoke with Andrew Matheson and Powers about being able to get out here over the summer to start working out and preparing for the season," Semptimphelter said. "Coach Blyn has been awesome, she's been helping me in the gym and staying mobile, it's stuff we're going to continue to do throughout the season."
This summer Semptimphelter received an invite to attend the Toronto Maple Leaf's development camp. NHL development camps provide players the chance to travel to NHL team facilities and rinks and compete against current professional and fellow amateurs - putting foes and friends on the ice in the same sweaters. For Semptimphelter, the camp granted him a new vision and understanding for the game - one more simplified for high-pressure situations.
"The biggest thing that I took away from it was to see the culmination of very high-end players," Semptimphelter said. "As a goalie, I think it (playing with the best athletes in the sport) makes the game easier for me to make reads and understand what's coming, but it was refreshing to have that experience coming into the season."
There's no doubt that Semptimphelter is ready to take the next step to help elevate ASU Hockey to the next level.
"He's not been good, he's been great every day in practice," said Powers. "He's a young man that just understands how much practice translates into the moment come game time. Everything about TJ embodies "Be The Tradition" and what we want out of our athletes."
The New Jersey native was named starting goaltender against then-No. 5 Minnesota Duluth to kick off the new season of Sun Devil Hockey where he recorded 77 saves over a two-game stretch. The sophomore enjoys the challenges that come with being a goaltender and looks forward to how this season will play out since the transition to becoming a Sun Devil has been easier than he could ever imagine.
Together as a team, Semptimphelter and the men he plays behind, set a belief that they can compete with any team at any time. After four games, there is a strong belief that ASU can go toe-to-toe with any collegiate hockey team.
"It's really refreshing and exciting to be on a team where day-in and day-out you're always going to have a chance," Semptimphelter said. "That's my job back there, to go in and give the guys a chance every night to come out with a win. Through those first four games, you can see that and it's an exciting start for the rest of the season."
Ever since he started to skate, Semptimphelter believes he was destined to be a goalie. When he was three, he began participating in skating lessons and he never looked back. He remembers his parents waking up early to go to the hockey rink for practices and feels proud of all the hard work he's put in.
Semptimphelter's work ethic is influenced by his parents and helped him become the person that he is today. Former goaltender Brian Boucher, who played 13 seasons in the NHL was his youth goalie coach growing up and a great influence in teaching Semptimphelter how to be a great hockey player.
"My parents played a huge role in not only the hockey player that I am today, but the person that I have developed into," Semptimphelter said. "Boucher was the coach of our team and being able to come to practice as a young kid every day and see one of your favorite NHL goalies as your coach, and getting advice from him was just tremendous for my development, it helped grow my love for the game."
Since joining the team over the summer and preparing for the season, he's excited to be a part of the first Sun Devil Hockey team to play in Mullet Arena. He shared that he and the team are ready to show fans what Sun Devil Hockey is capable of after the program spent seven seasons at Oceanside Ice Arena. The home opener is set to take place on Oct. 14 against Colgate at 7 p.m. at Mullett Arena.
"We're going to be moving into basically the Taj Mahal of college hockey rinks. I'm super excited, a lot of the guys on the team have told me and some of the other transfers about how incredible our fan base is, even when we were playing out of Oceanside, so I'm really excited to see how that carries over."