AJ DiChiara posted a 3.01 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 21 games played with Kent Denver this past season. Photos by Carol McKay
Colorado Hockey Hub: What did it mean to you to make Team Colorado this spring and for the second consecutive season?
AJ DiChiara: That was great. I was the only Kent Denver kid on that team. Kids from our school had been there in the past, but I was one of the first Kent Denver kids to travel with them (in 2019). Although we didn't travel this year, I think it helped our school that I was a representative and gave the school some recognition.
CO Hockey Hub: Growing up, you played with the New Jersey Colonials. What was that experience like?
AD: That was fun because it was my first time on a high-level club team out on the East Coast and got a taste of high-level hockey and travel to different states and play different teams. It was a good stepping stone for me.
CO Hockey Hub: What was it like making the transition from playing hockey in New Jersey to playing in Colorado?
AD: When I first came out here, we did this thing with our team called the "steamer." It's where you go up to Red Rocks (Park and Amphitheatre) and you run up the steps during the summer in the hot sun. I had just moved from sea level — it didn't go over well. I think I was trying to throw up for most of that. It was tough. I had to work hard and it was fun getting to know the team and get adjusted to Colorado hockey. The main adjustment for me was getting used to the altitude and getting into shape to play here.
CO Hockey Hub: How would you describe your experience playing with the Colorado Thunderbirds hockey club?
AD: That was the highest level of club hockey I had played thus far. The best part was that we were going all over the country playing different teams. Fans would come and watch us play in these different states and different tournaments. It was cool to finally get to the AAA level and compete with the top teams in the country. The camaraderie was great, and I made some of my best friends playing with the Thunderbirds.
"It was cool to finally get to the AAA level and compete with the top teams in the country. The camaraderie was great and I made some of my best friends playing with the Thunderbirds."
CO Hockey Hub: What's your biggest pet peeve as a hockey player?
AD: I actually don't like a water bottle on the back of the net — as much as that sounds odd. I start thinking about getting the water bottle popped off the net.
CO Hockey Hub: What's tougher to defend: a shootout or a penalty shot?
AD: I'd probably say a shootout because you have more time one-on-one with the player. With a penalty shot, you can line up better. It's easier for me to face that person and focus on that one player.
CO Hockey Hub: Patrick Roy or Semyon Varlamov?
AD: Roy. I just like his character and what makes him a favorite for me.
CO Hockey Hub: How did you decide on attending Kent Denver?
AD: My sister had been going there. She really got to know the school, and so did my parents and I. We loved it. It's a smaller school. It's a warm community that focuses on academics as much as athletics. That's something my parents and I both valued. It was my first choice. I knew the people there. I loved it.
CO Hockey Hub: What was it like to see the program improve while you were there?
AD: I think the peak moment was my sophomore year. We made it to the quarterfinals after beating Cherry Creek. We beat them in overtime. It was a ton of fun. We were losing with a minute left. We tied the game with 30 seconds left and then Ben Zimmerman scored the game-winner in overtime. The whole school was watching that game. Our hockey team hadn't been in that spot in about 15 years, so I think it was just a lot of gratification to finally work for a few years so we could compete with these much larger schools.
CO Hockey Hub: Why did you decide to head to Deerfield Academy to play hockey next year?
AD: One of my best friends since playing on the Thunderbirds, Ben Zimmerman, repeated his junior year at Deerfield. I thought he was crazy to do that. After spending a year there he told me about it. Ben reached out to me because the coach was looking for a goalie and Ben said he would vouch for me. The coach and I made a connection through Ben. I went and visited. Ben was a huge part of why I was excited for this experience. It's a great school and that's what made me choose it.
CO Hockey Hub: What do you hope to get out of your time at Deerfield?
AD: I think mostly getting more looks from more (college) coaches. I think it's another year of development and a chance for more schools to take a look at me.
CO Hockey Hub: Is playing college hockey your plan after playing a year at Deerfield?
AD: Absolutely. I'm hoping college hockey programs could come and see me competing for another year. That's what I'm shooting and hoping for.
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