It’s 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night and Will Denise is about to score.
His shirt is sparkling white. He’s got his boys with him. And don’t worry – he’s got protection.
But Denise isn’t at a bar. Or a club. He’s at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston, Va., where he and the rest of the GW club hockey team are taking on Old Dominion’s club squad.
Donning his white Colonials jersey and shrouded in layers of hockey padding, Denise makes a move to his left and gets past Old Dominion’s goalie. With a quick flick of the wrist, he’s buried his fifth goal of GW’s young season. But what comes next is a sound that is likely unfamiliar to GW hockey teams of the past – cheering.
GW club hockey teams have a history of putting out a respectable product and still going unnoticed. This year, though, the Colonials seem to have built up somewhat of a following – one that’s vocal and even raucous at times.
“When I started as a freshman, I didn’t even know there was a team,” Denise said after Friday’s 7-4 defeat of Old Dominion. “As we seniors have been coming up, we’ve been telling our friends to come out. It’s really hard when we play at Fort Dupont in Southeast D.C., but now that we’re playing (in Ballston), it’s a lot easier to get people out to games.”
The Colonials had a solid crop of vocal fans at their game last Friday and saw an even larger contingent cheering them on three weeks ago when they fell to Georgetown. But GW’s increase in fans began last February when the team battled Catholic at the Verizon Center in front of hundreds of fans, junior co-captain Jon Moynihan said.
“It all stems from the game at the Verizon Center,” he said. “That started it all.”
Moynihan also pointed to new players on the team that have brought out an increased number of fans to each game. If players are involved in other campus organizations, like a fraternity or religious organization, word of mouth can spread and bring more followers to each game.
Of course, it probably hasn’t hurt that the Colonials have been putting on a pretty good show for their fans over the past couple of years. The team has won its conference in two of the past three seasons, Denise said, and sits at 3-1 so far this season.
“I think it helps that we’re doing well,” he said. “My first year we started out 13-0. So we’re doing better, we’re telling people about it and we’re having fun with it.”
And if more support isn’t a product of the solid performance on the ice, maybe it’s what is causing GW’s stellar play. It was GW’s fans that kept the Colonials in the game against a stronger Georgetown squad three weeks ago, Moynihan said.
“For the first two periods they carried us. We were leading 2-1 going into the third period against a better team,” he said. “That really helped us a lot. There’s no better feeling than coming out and having more fans than the other team.”
GW’s next game will be Oct. 24 against Loyola College at Fort Dupont Ice Arena. The Colonials next game in Ballston is Nov. 15, vs. Georgetown.