Although the new National Hockey League campaign began over a month ago, the real 2018 hockey season took a few extra weeks for GDS students, as Montgomery Hockey Divisions I and II didn’t get underway until October 26th. For the D.C. Stars, a team composed of students whose schools do not have high school hockey teams, this season is going to mean more than ever before.
Fresh off a disappointing end to last season, in which the team finished second in Montgomery Division II to Sherwood, the Stars believed that they had been given the opportunity to make amends. Under the impression that they had been promoted to Division I due to their greater amount of young talent and thus their higher ceiling, the team has trained hard in order to prepare themselves to go up against hockey powerhouses.
“Last year, we were a very young team,” said junior Nick Howe, a talented center on the team with a self-described style of play similar to that of Washington Capitals all-time assist leader Nicklas Backstrom. “We still did really well in Division II, but now we’re all older and we’ve been moved up.”
Despite the less than ideal end to the 2017-18 season, the team was hungry to prove itself worthy of that promotion.
However, disaster struck as the Stars learned last week that they would not be promoted after all. With a maximum of six DI and eight DII teams each year, leagues are decided by an annual scoring of each team that takes into account the total number of players on separate travel teams and the number of years that each has played. With a team as young as the Stars, it would seem inevitable that their score would be too low to crack the top six Montgomery teams, leaving them in Division II. According to senior Benji Ishimaru, however, the Stars’ score plummeted due to an unfortunate technicality in the rulings.
“We thought we were definitely going to get promoted because we had a lot of travel players, a lot of kids playing for a while, but apparently, a lot of our guys stopped playing travel this year so they didn’t count in the scoring at all,” Ishimaru said of his team. “We ranked as one of the lowest teams in the whole system.”
Considering how well the team performed last season without the use of their first-string goalkeeper, who was injured early on in the season, the players believe that they were unjustly demoted.
“Our goalie rotation wasn’t set,” said Ishimaru.
Ishimaru added that he, sophomore Josh Liffman and junior Brian “Dominik Hasek 2.0” Kardan were forced to spend minutes in the goal. Playing with the odds stacked against them, the Stars bowed out in the first round of the playoffs to Northwest, losing 9-7. With a more proficient goalie, however, the team maintains that the outcome would have been different.
When asked what the goal is this season, the players were in agreement. “Win the league, I guess,” said Ishimaru.
Howe added that “anything is possible” regarding the Stars’ chances of moving up next season despite the long odds that the new playoff algorithm imposes on them. Many teams the Stars destroyed in DII play last season were promoted to DI in what the players believe to be the Stars’ rightful place. This year they are ready to make it clear that the league officials were mistaken in their dismissal of this team and its young, talented, and hungry core of players.
By Mimi Koenig ’20