For ten St. Michael’s seniors, Saturday marked the final home game of their college ice hockey careers. Four women and six men celebrated the culmination of years of hard work by putting it all out there one last time in front of friends and family. The women’s team faced off against New England College (NEC) before the men faced Babson College later that night.
Status as a member of a college athletics team can be an outstanding influence on a young person’s life. They have easy access to enjoy a mutual commitment to training; to maintain a common courage and perseverance in the face obstacles; and to build continuity with teammates each and every day. Athletic teams are a rare combination of likeminded individuals, committed to a common goal rooted in healthy activity. The knowledge that you are not alone in your daily grind is invaluable asset to athletes. In the end, the thought of losing that support system can be intimidating. Regardless of wins and losses, a full career in competitive college athletics is an accomplishment in its own right.
“I was overwhelmed going into the game,” said senior defenseman and co-captain Emily Loebs. As Loebs and fellow seniors Kaly Spilhaus, Naomi Major and Amanda Kempainen were honored alongside their parents before the puck-drop, she tried to put the moment in perspective, “I just wanted to go out playing a strong game, and playing for the love of the game, because that is why we all started playing as kids,” she said.
A quick start followed by a strong defensive effort led to a shutout victory as the Lady Knights rolled over NEC en route to a 3-0 final score. Loebs and teammates were able to step off the Cairns Arena ice surface for the last time with a positive feeling. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the men’s team.
The men’s team fell 5-1 despite a 37 save effort by senior goaltender Michael Comitini. The strong night between the pipes wasn’t enough to hold off the constant pressure put on by Babson’s offense. After the game the six seniors were celebrated and honored with friends and family.
Kevin Altidor, Brodie McCusker, Derek McInnis, Nick Potter, Mike Schreiner, and Comitini make up the first class head coach Damian DiGiulian has seen go from freshmen to senior’s at St. Michael’s. When reflecting on the group Coach DiGiulian said, “They have come to practice everyday and, no exaggeration, given their heart and soul to our program.”
It is easy to bring positive energy to daily activity when things are working in our favor. For a below .500 college hockey team, things can turn negative in a heartbeat. The commitment to working hard each day throughout a tough season speaks volumes to the senior’s leadership.
Chris Donovan has been coaching women’s ice hockey at St. Michael’s for 16 years. As he watches yet another senior class reach the final stages of their Purple Knights careers, he can’t help but smile. “It makes me proud that they have all grown into mature adults and have realized the responsibilities that come with being a NCAA varsity athlete.”
The Knights are back in action this weekend as the men’s team is set to face off against Norwich University Saturday at 4 p.m. at Kreitzberg Arena on campus in Northfield. The women’s team will begin a two-week span on the road when they travel to face St. Anselm College Friday night at Sullivan Arena in Manchester, N.H.