Huddled together to stay warm in the chilly arena, Mason students were ready to cheer for the Mason Ice Hockey team as they played rivals Northern Virginia Community College Friday night at the Prince William Ice Arena.

By the end of the game, after several fights between the opposing teams, fans were heated and jumping out of their seats as Mason came out winning 8-2.

Clinching a playoff berth against NVCC, Mason is headed to the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference playoffs where they will play either ODU or Maryland at the Herbert Wells Ice Arena in College Park on Feb 23.

by Stephen Kline

Gaining a spot in the playoffs wasn’t the only highlight of Friday’s game.

Beginning new traditions, Mason honored its senior players in a ceremony before the start of the game: Team Captain Andrew Rudzinski, Alternate Captain Ryan Pageau, Jacob Van der Veen, and Spencer Wolf. The team also recognized alumni from previous seasons.

As these players go on to other feats in life, the future looks bright for them, as well as the team.

Freshman Forward Dylan Talbot, who scored two goals, is a nominee for the Blue Ridge All-Star team along with fellow teammates Brian Bock and captain Rudzinski.

Coach Steve Hyjek is already seeing changes that are propelling the team toward a positive future.

“Everyone knows we have a NCAA basketball team, until a year ago nobody knew we had a hockey team. Last year we had 14 show up for tryouts, this year I had 32 show up for tryouts,”  Hyjek said­­.

The number of students interested in playing for the team isn’t just coming from locals.

“I had two kids contact me last year interested in the hockey program. Now I have 15 people interested from as far away as Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Minnesota. We are starting to get a reputation as a credible program,” Hyjek said.

The atmosphere of the game wouldn’t make anyone question the team’s credibility.

The bleachers were packed with fans holding signs, blowing horns and chanting players’ names. Their exciting win will only garner more support.

With the number of fans in the stands increasing and sponsors like the BRHC and Glory Days backing the team, it looks like the GMU ice hockey program is turning out to be a team to watch.

“Ultimately, if we do a good job, I would like to see this turn into a NCAA sport for Mason. It’s going to take time, a five or seven year plan. We are trying to build a program, not just a team, but build traditions,” Hyjek said.