Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16 boys’ hockey team stood up to cancer and played a magnificent weekend of hockey during a recent trip to the East Coast on November 4-6. The team played a three-game series against the North Jersey Avalanche, which included a Stand Up to Cancer charity game on Friday evening that raised nearly $50,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Aided by a social media push, both teams combined to raise nearly $30,000 from their local and school communities leading up to the game, while a silent auction featuring a series of signed jerseys, tickets, and other great prizes pulled in nearly $20,000 more for the event.
Additionally, the boys donned special gray and pink SSM jerseys on Friday evening in honor of Mr. Steve Rollwagen (father of SSM U16 player Tyler Rollwagen ’19), who is currently battling brain cancer. Both teams recognized friends and family members fighting cancer during a ceremonial puck drop just before the game, and the events of the evening helped bring the SSM team together.
“It definitely had an emotional impact on the team,” said SSM U16 head coach Mark Abalan. “They really care for one another, and what’s going on with Mr. Rollwagen matters to each of the boys. It was a moving evening.”
Inspired by the festivities of the day, the Sabres jumped on the Avalanche and prevailed for a 5-3 win in the opening game of the series.
“It was cool to play for something much bigger than hockey,” said Aleko Karamanis ’18.
The team carried that momentum over to Saturday, where they had the opportunity to play the Avalanche at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, home to the NHL’s New York Islanders and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. During what Abalan called “a special experience,” the Sabres again defeated the Avalanche, this time by the final tally of 4-3. Following their victory, the boys stuck around to watch the evening’s contest between the Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers. The series concluded on Sunday, with the Avalanche taking the finale, 3-2.
On top of the tremendous impact both teams made in the fight against cancer, Abalan was proud of the way his team responded on the ice during an emotional weekend.
“The trip was so valuable from a competitive standpoint because the boys had to deal with the distractions of a long trip and a different routine,” Abalan said. “It was an emotional and physical test, but we had a great weekend of hockey against a championship-caliber opponent.”
During the trip, the boys were also able to stop at the 9/11 Memorial and tour Freedom Tower, signing the wall of the 88th floor. They also met with a 9/11 first responder and former New York City Firefighter before Friday’s contest, adding a powerful, unforgettable life experience to their hockey trip.
There would be no rest for the U16 team following the trip, as they returned to Minnesota for two state playoff games on November 7 and 8. However, they finished their grueling stretch strong and dominated both contests by scores of 8-0 and 6-0 to earn their spot in the national tournament.
“The energy that we had going into those games, being on the road to nationals, we were pumped,” said John Farinacci ’19. “We found a way to get through it.”
“It was a grind, but our team really handled the week well,” added Mason Perich ’18.
A special thank you to the SSM parents who helped coordinate and execute this impactful event.
For those still interested in making a contribution to the Stand Up to Cancer fundraiser, click here.