Blades cutting through the ice, halting, gliding, turning, sending shaves of frozen water flying through the air. Sticks colliding. Bodies banging against the boards. And that’s just practice.
Ice hockey is one of the oldest and most successful club sports at Georgetown despite its limited resources and recognition. The program has seen major changes in recent years, beginning when university officially recognized club sports in 2000. Then, in arch 2003, the team moved up to Division II play, joining the ACC Hockey League.
In only its second season in the league, the team won its first ACCHL Championship at the end of February after finishing with an overall record of 11-7-2 (5-2-1 in the ACCHL).
Two seasons in the ACCHL. Two championship games. As the newcomers in the league last year, Georgetown stormed its way through the tournament to reach the title match against Duke only to lose by one goal after a referee disallowed what would have been a go-ahead goal for the Hoyas. The Hoyas walked out of the arena in second place.
“As a result, we developed a rather strong rivalry/hate towards Duke,” Assistant Captain Joe Spitz (MSB `05) said.
The rivalry showed in this year’s semifinals when the two teams met again on the ice in the second round. This time the Hoyas easily emerged as the victors, winning 7-3.
Duke was not the only team to lose to Georgetown during the tournament. The Hoyas faced North Carolina in the first round, coming out on the winning end of a 13-3 score.
After moving past UNC and Duke to reach the finals, the championship match against the Virginia proved to be more than the Hoyas could have ever anticipated.
During the Virginia match, Georgetown was forced to play without its key player Luke Holden (MSB ’07), the second leading scorer for Georgetown. Holden sustained an injury during the Duke match, when a skate crossed his throat, cutting him. Holden recovered but was not able to play in the final game.
Even without one of its dominant players Georgetown scored the first goal of the game and held the lead throughout the first period, putting the Hoyas up 1-0 at the end of the first.
Early during the second period, Erik Estey (SFS ’08) was also forced to the bench because of an injury, leaving the Hoyas now without two players.
Georgetown still managed to dominate during the second period, scoring three more goals and only allowing one from the opposition. The Hoyas were leading 4-1, but the trouble was not over yet as Georgetown lost yet another player, Dan Vincent (NHS ’08), due to a sprained ankle in the third period.
“That was a very stressful time, to juggle all those lines . constantly trying to get the right players out there on the ice,” Head Coach John Kokidko said. “They showed real perseverance.”
The Cavaliers started to climb back, scoring two unanswered goals, bringing the score to 4-3. Georgetown finally did answer, but Virginia would not be put away. The Cavaliers scored two more goals, tying the game at 5-5 with less than three minutes to go in the third period.
The Hoyas would not give up the game, and centerman Dave Glynn (COL `08) scored unassisted off of a face-off, giving the Hoyas the lead late in the third.
“It was really one of the best individual plays I’ve ever been able to watch,” Assistant Coach Doug Stewart said.
Georgetown still wanted more and T. Sean Lynch (MED `08), last year’s captain and this year’s tournament’s most valuable player, finished off the game scoring on an empty net, bringing the score to its final tally of 7-5. Georgetown had won its first ACC Championship.
Not an Easy Road
Some teams have to overcome challenges posed by facilities, practice times or funding in order to succeed. Georgetown hockey had to overcome all three and more.
While most of the teams in the ACCHL practice several days a week in addition to other conditioning or extra scheduled games, Georgetown manages to practice just once a week, partly because of cost, schedules and ice time.
“[The opponents] are guys who arrive to play against Georgetown in their great big shiny buses . It’s all very kind of formal,” Stewart said. “Georgetown is a bunch of kids who drive themselves to the games. They practice once a week. There is a substantial disadvantage in terms of resources. [Georgetown] kids are coming out to practices at 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday night, it’s not like any of this is easy for them. I think they’re overcoming obstacles to just play.”
As a club sport, the team receives limited funding. In the case of an expensive sport such as ice hockey, where even the cost of ice time can be expensive, limited funding converts into limited resources. But that has not stopped these guys from winning.
“What I’ve noticed about Georgetown kids – they never give up. It is really exemplified by the season I’ve seen. They’ve amazingly persevered,” Kokidko said. “For the guys who have been with the program a long time, it was nice to see them win something. The students have done so much for the program itself.”
Most club sports face similar challenges to those facing ice hockey, but the athletes continue to play for love of the game.
“That’s 100 percent of it,” Stewart said. “The team is a great credit to the school as it is. Their achievement shows that.”
The players themselves were eager to defend their love of the game and their love of the program.
“You can clearly see the passion for hockey in each and every one of the guys on the team,” former Assistant Captain John Colleran (MSB ’04) said.
These Hoyas also recognize that resources and funding can not alone make a team. As Vice President John Stebbins (COL ’06)said, “Playing hockey together is only a part of teambuilding. We have a great time off the ice as well. Also, we’ve started a frat: Mu Epsilon Nu. The frat is dedicated to the promotion of hockey at Georgetown and making people less thirsty.”
According to Colleran, a driving force behind this year’s success was, in fact, techno music. “There is a common respect on our team for Euro club beats and anything fist pumping,” he said. “It gets your mentality focused before a game, and keeps you ready to go between periods.”
What Lies Ahead
According to the players, coaches, and statistics, the future of the team is in good hands. A wave of impressive and effective freshman entered the team this year, including two major scorers for the Hoyas: Glynn, who was Georgetown’s top scorer this year with a total of 18 goals, and Conor Hickton, whose 10 goals were third on the team.
“This team will only get better,” Spitz said. “In general, we were a rather young team this year with a few key upperclassmen providing strong leadership.”
As for the one common wish for the future of the team, it lies in the hands of fellow Georgetown students: fan support. The same sentiment was echoed by players and coaches alike.
“I’d like to see the student body come out to some games, and start to have some fun watching some pretty good hockey,” Stewart said.
“We have something under the radar here that is equally exciting and successful [as other programs] and would give students something they could root for,” Hickton (COL, ’08) said.
In the end, the heart of the team lies beyond the challenges. It lies in each player and each coach, all contributing in part to the whole of the team. It is about a team, its players, its coaches and guys hitting each other very hard while skating very fast.