The Fordham Sports Team You Don't Know Exists, But Definitely Should
By Christina Czachor
You may know them as the purveyors of the Cage or champions of the “Hockey House” ... or, you may not know them at all. There's’ been many a time where I've brought up the hockey team here and have gotten the response, “Fordham has a hockey team?” But what you probably don’t know is that the Club Hockey team at Fordham is actually good. Like, really good.
For the first time in the team’s 49-year history, the hockey team made it to nationals. The tournament was held in Frisco, Texas, on March 26th-28th. Led by captain Michael Gamby, and assistant captains Sean Johnson, Anthony DiPerri, and Ryan LeBlanc, the team ended their time at nationals with a record of 2-1, falling only to top competitor University of Michigan in an exhilarating 2-1 loss.
Prior to nationals, the boys had gone undefeated in league play, with a perfect 14-0 record. Including non-league games, their record is 22-4-3, beating the likes of #2 ranked Fairfield and #3 ranked George Mason.
For the second year in a row, the team has won the Metropolitan Collegiate Hockey Conference Championship, a feat never accomplished by any other team in the division. They also set a Fordham sports-wide record by achieving a ranking of #5 in the Atlantic Region, something that has never been accomplished by another Fordham club sports team.
This year, the team received a bid to nationals after defeating George Mason 7-1. This game was a favorite of senior assistant captain Anthony DiPerri.
“Beating George Mason to go to natty’s this year after they beat us by a point last year was one of the highlights of my career,” said DiPerri, “Great revenge game.”
This feeling was echoed by Captain Mike Gamby. He further elaborated on the game saying, “I think losing by a goal in last year’s finals [to George Mason] and realizing how close we were gave the team a whole new belief and desire to finish the job this year.”
When asked about what they thought had changed this season and what gave them the extra “oomph,” both assistant captains DiPerri and Johnson agreed quality leadership and dedication were principal factors. “Another year of very good goaltending [by sophomore Joe Sponenberg] combined with a very complete team” claimed DiPerri.
According to teammates, Sponenberg (Known as “Joe,” “Spo,” or even “my actual father” according to DiPerri) was a vital part of the team’s success this season.
“Knowing that we had an incredible goaltender like Spo behind us really gave the team the confidence we needed to gain the success we did this season,” said junior Harry D’Agostino.
All-Atlantic Region MVP, and First Team All Atlantic Region are just a few accolades “Spo” has collected in just two years here at Fordham. As if that wasn’t enough, he also recorded 63 saves in the teams only loss at nationals.
Some upperclassmen were hesitant to think nationals was in the cards for them at the beginning of the season due to the loss of four talented seniors the year prior. However, Gamby had other ideas:
“I expected the team to make nationals from the beginning. Even though we lost some senior leadership, we had a great core of talent coming back.” Further into the season, the boys began to beat higher ranked teams, and that’s when they knew they had something special.
“When we beat Fairfield at home, I knew this team was different. We had gotten over the hump that we couldn’t in previous years. We were on a different level of competition now,” shared Johnson.
Although the team has seen an abundance of success this season, it hasn’t come easy. There is still a lack of recognition of their existence throughout the Fordham community.
“It hurts, it really hurts people don’t even know we exist” was an honest anecdote from junior Nick Gadowski . Fordham used to supply Ram Vans to their home rink, the Ice Hutch in Mt. Vernon. However, due to rather unfortunate fan interactions with an opposing team, the “fan vans” have since been discontinued.
On a more technical level, two of the team’s best offensive players are currently studying abroad this semester. After their departure, the team was uneasy and unsure about who would step up to take their place. Luckily, rookie seniors Austin O’Malley and Marcus Mazur were able to fill in and play a huge role in the teams second half of the season.
As seen with other club programs (shout out FUWCS), Fordham does not provide any financial aid when teams qualify for nationals. The boys were able to raise over $35,000 for their trip through donations from friends, family, and alumni.
As the season comes to a close, the boys look forward to taking the offseason as an opportunity to reflect on the past season while they hit the links and take some much deserved time off. As for the future, D’Agostino says the team has their sights set on success.
“We don’t want to stop at being the first [Fordham hockey] team to go to nationals, we want to be the first team to go back to back years as well.” Over the past three years, the team has only continued to get better, and continues to attract a great amount of talent in their freshman recruits.
When I asked some players to summarize the 2018-2019 Fordham Club Hockey team in one word or one small phrase, “electric” and “legendary” were two of the most notable responses. To watch an electric and legendary of the team’s highlight reel from this season, check out their Nationals funding page here.