ALBANY, N.Y. — On Friday afternoon Colgate’s Eamon Del Giacco and Clarkson’s Lyon Porter squared off against each other for a chance to play in the ECAC Championship game. Fourteen months ago, however, the two sat together as teammates on a struggling Fairfield team and listened as their futures in hockey fell into jeopardy.
“They surprised us with a month left in the season,” said Porter of the Fairfield administrators. “They told us in a meeting that the program was over, funds were low, and we were getting cut. Everyone was left scrambling.”
The demolition of the Fairfield hockey team left its stunned Stags to finish out an already difficult year. On their way to an 8-23-2 season, players such as Porter and Del Giacco could focus only on their sense of betrayal and their own futures.
“Everyone was pretty upset,” said Del Giacco. “No one was happy about it. It was tough finishing out the season. You felt like you were playing for the names on the back of the jersey instead of the logo on the front. People really felt abandoned by the school, because we put a lot of work in for the program and they pulled the sheet right from under us.”
“I personally committed a lot of time and energy into that program,” said Porter. “We were a family, like every team. We all had a bitter taste in our mouths.”
The hockey careers of a few of the Stags were not fated for an abrupt and sour end, however. Del Giacco and Porter, along with Cody Wojdyla and Andrew Martin (Rensselaer) found homes in the ECAC, and found themselves immersed in a different kind of game.
“If I could really tell you how different it is, you wouldn’t believe me,” said Porter. “You go from playing in front of friends and family in the worst rink in college hockey to one of the best programs in college hockey. The support we get from the fans, alumni, and school are incredible, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Del Giacco also nestled into a comfortable, albeit, foreign environment. The Saratoga Springs, N.Y. native jumped from a club that finished dead last in the now defunct MAAC conference to the ECAC regular season champion Raiders.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I knew they were going to be better than Fairfield, but that’s all I knew. The commitment that Colgate shows to the hockey program is a lot more than at Fairfield. Also, its in a better league with better competition. Playing in front of thousands of people instead of hundreds of people is quite the change.”
Porter got the better of Del Giacco on Friday, contributing an assist to his Golden Knights’ 2-1 victory over Colgate and moving on to the Championship Game on Saturday night. Afterwards, however, he made sure to visit with Del Giacco’s parents, who had been like family to him just one year ago. For both players, Fairfield’s decision to drop its program may have taken them away from each other, but it could not keep them from achieving success on the ice.
“The toughest thing about leaving Fairfield was leaving the guys on the team,” said Del Giacco. “But it’s been a blessing in disguise. I was upset when it first happened, but things have really worked out.”