This past weekend was better than it seemed at the time … and at least the second-best part of it was the college hockey game I went to this afternoon.
It was Lafayette College’s last hockey game of the year, and maybe the last real competitive game ever for the four or five seniors on the team.
Lafayette showed up with nine skaters and a single goalie, while their opponents, Penn, brought a full squad.
I figured Lafayette would put up a valiant fight, but would run out of gas in the middle of the second period and end up losing.
When Penn scored three times in quick succession in the second period, bringing a 5-3 lead into the break, it looked like my prophecy would come true.
As the Lafayette players trudged into the locker room, I heard the family members of one player call, “Go get ’em, Kev!” The kid looked up, smiled ruefully and said, “I’m gonna die.”
A couple minutes later, I saw one of the other Lafayette skaters buying a bottle of Powerade from the vending machine in the rink lobby. He looked spent.
And then, absolutely out of nowhere, Lafayette came trucking out for the final period and scored. Once, twice, three times.
They gave one back.
And then they scored again. Once, twice, three times.
After Lafayette pulled to within 5-4, I went from a dispassionate observer to a fan. I got sucked right in, like the Miracle on Ice, tapping my hands against the boards and rocking anxiously back and forth every time Lafayette beat back a rush.
After the game, the seniors lingered on the ice, posing for pictures.
It was easy to imagine them, 50 years old and graying, still telling each other, “Remember when we dropped six goals on Penn in the third period?”
It felt like a small pleasure of my own to be part of the memory.
And then there was one kid — not a senior, I later found out, but a freshman — who didn’t seem to want to leave the ice.
Over and over he skated circles, up until the Zamboni started to pull onto the ice and he had to leave.
Maybe he found his freshman season too memorable to leave behind. Maybe he was thinking about February of 2016, when he would pull on the uniform for a final time himself.
Either way, after three hard periods of hockey, he wasn’t too tired to cling to his own private reverie.