Unbeknownst to much of Foggy Bottom, there is an impressive GW team that is ranked first in its league, fourth in its region, and is still undefeated more than halfway through a long season.
Tucked away at the Fort DuPont Ice Arena in Southeast Washington – a long Metro train ride and a bus transfer from campus – the GW club ice hockey team practices, preparing for this weekend’s road trip to Georgia.
The Colonials play in the Mason-Dixon Collegiate Hockey Association, where they are 10-0, with a 13-0 record overall. GW is still the only undefeated team in all of the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III.
This is only the first year GW has been a fully recognized member of the ACHA with a full league schedule, head coach Justin Fishman said.
Fishman said the squad never formalized a coaching staff until its full membership in the ACHA required it this year, making him the team’s first official head coach.
Fishman played four years of hockey at GW and helped out with the team last year. He is assisted by coaches Michael Dee, who played with the team the past four years, and Guy Lipa, who played the last three seasons.
The Colonials’ strong season thus far is not a surprise considering their recent history. Last season GW ended with a 12-2 record after losing in the semifinals of the MDCHA playoffs to Loyola Marymount in quadruple overtime.
Freshman forward Will Denise and sophomore forward Colin Gilmartin lead the offense in goals and assists.
“At the beginning of the season our goals were to, number one, win our conference – the MDCHA,” Fishman said. “Our second goal is to receive an invite to nationals.” The top four teams from the ACHA’s South Region will receive a bid for the March 1-4 national tournament in Fort Myers, Fla.
GW will be defending its No. 4 ranking in the South Region against the rest of the region’s top eight teams Friday through Sunday outside Atlanta in the Southern Regional tournament. It is being hosted by Kennesaw State University and the University of Georgia, whose teams are ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the South Region. The tournament is expected to draw crowds upward of 1,000 fans.
“We received the No. 4 ranking in (the South Region) . it’s up to us to hold it,” Fishman said. “I expect us to play extremely hard and extremely well. I expect us to win.”
“We’d love to get some support for home games,” Fishman added. “Getting the word out. That’s our biggest problem.”
Despite the success, players are still frustrated at the lack of recognition from students.
“There is a team on campus, we show up every day” Denise said. “When they see us in our jackets and ask if we’re an intramural team – it’s kind of demoralizing.”
Fishman said he has four to five players that could compete in the NCAAs, including graduate student Ben Daniels, who already has played NCAA Division III with Connecticut College.
“GW has always had talented players because of where it’s located,” Fishman said of the University’s draw for northeastern students, where most high school hockey is played.
The Colonials’ high caliber of play can also be seen in the competition to get on the squad. The roster lists 22 players. Fishman said approximately 40 tried out for spots. The team practices once a week, on Tuesdays.
Fishman said the Colonials have been invited to join Division II of the ACHA in the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League, where GW would join the likes of Duke, George Mason, Georgetown, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
“We’d need more support from the school,” Fishman said. He conceded that he is unsure if the team will be able to move up next year because of the resources needed to recruit and play at that level.
Denise said he likes the idea of the tougher competition GW would face in Division II, but believes “we’re not going to be able to win them all like this year.”
After the Southern Regional tournament, the Colonials return to D.C. for their next home game Friday, Feb. 10. GW will take on Georgetown at 10:30 p.m. There will be two more home games before the season ends, the nights of Feb. 18 and 24. Directions to the Fort DuPont Ice Arena can be found on the team’s Web site, www.gwu.edu/~hockey/index.html.