FREDONIA, N.Y. — The third annual Pink the Rink event at Fredonia, the originators of the concept, was the most successful one yet. Fans filled the stands before the warm-ups were completed, and they continued to stream in up to the opening faceoff, as it was four to five deep in standing room and along the corner boards.
This year’s event saw the Blue Devils wear not just pink uniforms (and pink socks), but with names other than their own on their backs. Uniforms were “purchased” by anyone who wanted to put a name of a loved one affected by cancer, with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
The most personal story for Fredonia students was that of junior business major Jessica Webber, Jessa to her friends, who passed away January 6 after a seven-year battle with brain cancer. Her friends wanted to honor her by purchasing a jersey, but they didn’t have the funds. Two Fredonia professors, who wished to remain anonymous, donated the $250 needed to put “J. WEBBER” on the back of Bryan Ross’ jersey.
“It wasn’t easy for her to get up the stairs (to the classroom),” said Barb Webber, Jessa’s mother. “But she was determined and wanted to finish what she had started. The professors were good about everything. She dedicated most of her time to her school work. I think that’s what kept her going, and it gave her the drive to keep trying. She never, ever gave up.”
After the game, the players gave the jerseys to those who purchased them. Matt Webber accepted the jersey honoring his sister to a thunderous cheer from the student section.
“There was a lot of emotional attachment by the people in this building tonight because of the jerseys,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. “The presentation at the end — you had entire families, classes of school children coming out. Cancer is something that affects all of us. They wanted to see their loved one’s jerseys on someone’s back.”
Before the opening face off, the event raised $8,100. With fundraising activity taking place during the game, Meredith is hoping they top $10,000.
Oh, there was a hockey game to be played against Morrisville. Although Fredonia clinched the third seed in the conference playoffs and home ice for Tuesday’s play-in game, tonight’s result determined whether they play Morrisville again or Potsdam.
Fredonia ensured a rematch in three days, using a three-goal outburst in a span of 2:42 in the second period to break open a 1-1 tie to defeat Morrisville, 7-1. The Blue Devils remain unbeaten on Pink the Rink events going 2-0-1.
“We’ve done the Pink the Rink for a number of years now,” Meredith said. “You come out to warm ups and the place is standing room only. They start lining up at 5:30 for the doors to open at 6:00 just to get a seat. You have so much energy, so much emotion, it takes time to settle down. Once we settled down, we were where we needed to be.”
Morrisville spoiled the initial crowd excitement by opening the scoring on their first power play chance at 6:46. Chris Cerbino, standing by the right post, tipped it past Kody Van Rentergem [Turner].
“We battled in the first 20 minutes,” Morrisville coach Brian Grady said. “Obviously, we got a big power-play goal to start. We didn’t back down. I think the walls kind of caved in on us in the second. We ran out of gas. Taking nothing away from Fredonia. They are as good as anyone. Their feet never stop moving. We just ran into a buzz saw, but at the same time we ran into a wall both physically and mentally. It’s been a long drive to get to this point. If there’s a positive, we get to see them again.”
Fredonia reignited the home fans at 17:26 when James Muscatello’s [Hendricks] backhander fooled Caylin Relkoff, as it appeared he was expecting Muscatello to pass to a player down low.
Fredonia had the better of play in the first, with a number of excellent scoring chances. They continued to get stronger in the second period, dominating portions of the game as if they were on a power play.
Midway through the period, Grady called time out. An early time out against Potsdam last month worked wonders for Morrisville.
This time it didn’t work, as Fredonia got the go-ahead goal 42 seconds later and then 43 seconds after that, scored again. Another 1:59 later, it was 4-1.
“There were three shifts in a row there we didn’t get the puck out of our zone,” Grady said. “You take a gamble with it, and obviously it didn’t work tonight.”
First, Ross [J. Webber], from behind the net, fed Mitch Kulikoski [Kulikoski] in front who easily one-timed it past Relkoff. Then, Jeff Aonso [E. Reilly] crashed the net, putting the puck in during the process. Finally, Ross converted a two-on-one, shooting from the slot, putting it over the goalie’s left shoulder just under the crossbar.
Fredonia sealed the game in the final period with two Mat Hehr [N. Lacusta] power-play goals. The first came at 5:51 when Hehr picked up a loose puck at the right faceoff dot, turned, and fired it past Relkoff. The second was thanks to Hehr’s hard work, as he followed up on his own rebound twice to finally put it in.
Morrisville pulled Relkoff, putting in Matt Treadwell.
He didn’t fare any better, as the Blue Devils made it 7-1 at 11:49. Jordan Oye [Scharett] fired it from the slot area.
Van Rentergem got 28 saves in the win as Fredonia outshot Morrisville, 53-29.
Thus, Fredonia (17-6-2, 9-5-2) hosts Morrisville (8-16-0, 5-11-0) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the first round of the SUNYAC playoffs while Potsdam goes to Brockport.