Denver native DiChiara finds ‘dream school’ with commitment to NCAA Division III Bowdoin
Growing up, AJ DiChiara developed his goaltending skills with the Colorado Thunderbirds and at Kent Denver School.
This season, the Denver native is wrapping up his junior hockey eligibility with the Maritime Hockey League’s Yarmouth Mariners, a team located in southwestern Nova Scotia.
Next season, he’ll be back in the United States after committing to play NCAA Division III hockey at Bowdoin College, a NESCAC school located in Brunswick, Maine.
“Honestly, the opportunity really came out of nowhere,” said DiChiara. “Ever since I went on my first college trip when I was 15, Bowdoin has been kind of a dream school for me. I had been talking to the coaching staff for years and one of the reasons I took the postgraduate year at Deerfield was to show coaches in the northeast how I could play.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and we didn’t have a real season, so everyone’s hands were tied. At the end of last year, I faced a tough decision. I could go to Colgate and be a deep backup or I could use my last year of eligibility to play juniors, and that’s what I decided to do. Candidly, I had not talked to Bowdoin all summer or through most of the fall because I was off to a slow start, but I had a very good month in November and one night got a phone call from the assistant coach (Stan Moore). Two other NESCAC coaches called as well, so from then on, I went through all the steps of applying to schools and continuing to play to the best of my ability.
“A couple of months later, I could not have been more thrilled to have received my acceptance letter from Bowdoin. It was truly full circle to when I first fell in love with the school in my sophomore year of high school.”
DiChiara said there is a great deal of appeal with Bowdoin, on and off the ice, and already has an idea on a major for when he starts on campus this coming fall.
“I’ve thought about that a lot, and I’ve always been fascinated with history,” DiChiara said. “The school already has plenty of history itself, so I think that could be a very interesting route to take. I am also interested in finance and economics for the future, so a potential minor in one of those areas would be great too. For me, I’ve always wanted to be somewhere on the East Coast. I grew up in New Jersey and for some reason, it always felt like home to me. I think more specifically though I wanted to be in New England.
“My two previous schools have been smaller schools, too. Some people get tired of that and seeing the same faces, but I actually really like it. It feels so much more like a community, and you really bond with your peers. I got that feeling when I first stepped on the Bowdoin campus all those years ago. Most of all, though, I wanted a school that would challenge me to be better. I think Bowdoin is rigorous with its academics, and that will prepare me to get to the next step in my life.”
This season with the Mariners, DiChiara went 9-3-0 during the regular season with a 2.40 GAA and a .907 save percentage with three shutouts.
Going forward, it’s staying humble for the 2001 birth year.
“My dad likes to say, ‘You’re playing with house money now,’ and for a long time, I’ve had a lot of pressure on myself to perform and get to the next level,” DiChiara said. “The position of goalie in itself leaves very little room for error. Sometimes, that stress has gotten in the way of me actually enjoying the game and taking in the experiences I’ve had through this whole long journey I took to get here.
“I think now as the season comes to an end, I still want to strive and do the best I can, but at the same time try to relax, slow down, and do my best to appreciate all that has happened to this point.”
— Matt Mackinder
(March 11, 2022)