From a video game and a dream, ice hockey thrives at GW

Four years ago, the GW hockey club arose from the chaos of dozens of pizzas and 2 a.m. study sessions in Thurston Hall. Freshmen Carl Hurwitz and Jeff Butler, playing ice hockey on a Sega video game system, wished that GW had a hockey team of its own.

That dream became a reality when Butler’s uncle provided the financial support and connections to get a GW hockey club off the ground and into a rink in Weston, Va. Left wing Matt Schliftman said the team must have played George Mason University’s team 10 times that year, but it was a blast.

And so the GW hockey club was born.

Currently comprised of graduate students and upperclassmen, the club has come a long way since its founders’ Sega-inspired daydreams. The team stands at 12-1-1, is in first place in its division and is positioned to get a top seed in the playoffs.

GW plays 20 to 25 games each year as part of the Mason Dixon Collegiate Hockey Association along with schools such as American, Catholic, Georgetown and Salisbury State universities, and the U.S. Naval Academy. The club faces every team in its division at least twice, once at home and once away. “Home” for the team is in Southeast Washington at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena, “the best ice in the area that we can afford,” head coach Graham Fraser said.

This season is Fraser’s third as head coach and he said he truly enjoys it.

“The first year I did it, it was really hard,” he said. “I had played with the team the year before, and I felt I couldn’t control the outcome as much as when I was actually on the ice. Now, I’m more comfortable, and a lot of the guys that are on the team now never played with me, so they only see me as a coach.”

The team members said they are fighting an uphill battle without any financial support from GW. The team must save all its money to rent ice time for actual games, and has had to nearly forego practice time for the last two months.

Last year, GW defeated Navy for the Mason Dixon League championship, and its overwhelming success has carried over into this season.

Also, with more money the team would be able to apply for membership to the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), the organization that ranks all collegiate hockey teams.

“If we were in the ACHA right now, we’d be ranked fourth of fifth,” right wing Tej Datta said. “We just can’t afford that now.”

Other organizations, such as Navy, can practice two to three times a week because they don’t fund themselves. Still, GW has dominated the league for the last two years.

Much of the club’s success stems from Fraser’s innovative “umbrella offense,” implemented by GW whenever it has a power play. The play takes its name from the shape the players form while attacking in the offensive zone.

Besides funding, the club’s other main problem is recruiting new players. Because players can no longer be on the team after they graduate, the current players are unsure if the club will exist after they graduate.

Presently, the team does not have a problem, bringing two and often three lines to every game. GW is quite a deep team, except at goalie where Mike Aigan is the only club member who plays that position.

The team will also play in the MCI Center March 6, following the Washington Capitals game against the Edmonton Oilers. Both games can be seen with one $25 ticket.

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