In the midst of despair and tragedy, people often seek solace taking their minds to odd places. For the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School varsity ice hockey team, the ice is a place of privacy and a distraction from the real world and the tragedy that lies within it.
The players were given an option to stay home and grieve to forgo the stress of competing in States. However, the team chose to play for those who couldn’t. Before the tournament, the players knew what they needed to do in order to get into the championship. heir minds didn’t need to be in the right place but the hearts did.
The semi-final game arrived, and it was time for the Eagles to show up and fight. The Eagles were to play East Lake, a tampa based team made up of two schools. A strong push in the first two periods by both teams resulted in a 2-2 tie going into the final period. A goal by senior Joey Zenobi brought a 3-2 lead to the Eagles. All they needed was to fight for 14 more minutes. Seconds ticked off the clock, and the game was over.
The Eagles had secured a bid to Nationals by placing in the top two of the pure (a team only made up of players from one high school) high school division. Not even an hour later, the team had to play in the state championship. Tired, spent and hurt, the team took the ice to face off not even an hour after playing in the semifinal game against a Tampa based Jesuit team, whom they had previously lost to in the preliminary games.
The Eagles raced to a quick start, climbing to a massive 4-0 lead with nine minutes left in the first period. Jesuit would not be held down for long as they scored one to cut the lead. Shortly after, freshman Adam Hauptman finished a smooth passing play to bring the lead right back to 5-1.
The Eagles’ focus did not stray far from the ice as strategy never stopped being exchanged between forwards and defenseman. Two more goals by Jesuit resulted in a 6-3 lead for the Eagles with two minutes left in the third period.
Hope was rising and the audience was celebrating, but the job was not done. Anticipation mounted, and the final seconds went off the clock, and a massive celebration ensued as the MSD ice hockey team had secured its first ever high school state championship.
“It was incredible. The team pulled together and was able to come out on top,” forward Matt Horowitz (81) said.
The rollercoaster of emotions had seen ups and downs, but bringing the state championship for the city of Parkland, for the MSD community, and for the souls that had gone to rest about two weeks earlier, was the highlight of the year.
“I felt like we brought a little ray of sunlight into the darkness that has been surrounding the community,” goaltender Nate Shield (31) said.
A team who had not quit, a team who had worked tirelessly over a three-day period to claw and fight through five games, achieved glory and a place in the halls of MSD.
A phrase that resonated throughout the tournament “bring it home for Parkland” had motivated the players to execute at their fullest.
It was not an easy task, as it had never been done before but the 2017-2018 MSD ice hockey team is the new state champion.
“Being able to win states and bring the trophy back to Douglas was incredible,” Shield said.
For the seniors, who had experienced heartbreak before, losing in the 2015-2016 state championship, this team was a four-year project, and the effort had payed off. This team hoisted the trophy, at last, to live in the history of MSD.
“It meant a lot coming across the state with our story and to be able to get the job done,” team captain Matthew Hauptman said.
After the game, Horowitz suggested the 17 skaters place their medals on the 17 crosses in front of the school in honor of the victims.
“This wasn’t for us, this was for the 17 victims,” Horowitz said.
A symbolic representation of the community’s unity and ethics, the players on the team wanted to contribute a positive light in these dark times.