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Do you believe in miracles?

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.

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Start of the period: 5-3, Penn.

Barely two minutes into the period, it's 5-5.

Barely two minutes into the period, it’s 5-5.

90 seconds later, it's 6-5 Lafayette.

90 seconds later, it’s 6-5 Lafayette.

Fast-forward four minutes. The game ended 9-6.

Fast-forward 10 minutes.

Game over. I bet that drink of Gatorade tasted pretty good.

The final buzzer has just sounded. I bet that drink of Gatorade tasted pretty good.

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.

We are the champions. Well, maybe not, but we went out winners.

Winners.

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.

Sorry, kid. Time to go home.

Sorry, kid. Time to go home.

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7 responses »

  1. Beautifully written.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for such a nice story about these young men and their character. Here are some stats from the season that might be of interest in the context of the game you saw.

    ‘Pards record v. D-II Teams
    Sep-Oct: 2-8-0-0
    Nov-Feb:5-4-0-1
    •Won or tied just under 70% of our periods.
    •Opponents had avg of 17.3 players, we had avg of 11.5.

    We met five teams twice:
    Record First Meeting – 0-5
    Record 2nd Meeting 3-2 (the two losses were by a total of three goals).

    Total of scores when meeting teams twice
    First meetings ‘Pards 18 – Them 39
    Second meeting ‘Pards 19 – Them 15

    All year long I got to be around people who were smart, focused, determined and nurtured to have chararacter in abundance. Hockey is their vehicle. But what they achieve has little to do with the sport. These young men will achieve anything to which they set their hearts.

    Again, thank you for the story and pics.

    Coach Tom Malm

    Reply
  3. Great story! And it was very classy of the Lafayette coach to comment. As a Lehigh alum (Class of ’82), I must give kudos to the ‘Pards hockey players for giving their all, as they always do. Good for them. This is just the latest in a long list of stories that demonstrate why so many people love sports.

    Reply
    • It had been a while since I’d really been pulled into a sporting event, but this one did it.
      I felt a little bad for Penn, since they seemed to come apart in the third period … but they didn’t give it away; Lafayette earned it.

      Reply

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