The Fredonia State Blue Devils' hockey team took the ice in front of a standing-room-only crowd Saturday night sporting their pink jerseys and socks for the annual Pink the Rink hockey game versus the Morrisville State Mustangs and didn't disappoint as the Blue Devils came away with an exciting 5-2 victory.
Trailing 2-1 going into the third period, Fredonia State came out and brought the 1,000-plus fans to their feet as the Blue Devils tied the game just 10 seconds into the final period on an unassisted goal by Alex Perkins.
Fredonia State won the faceoff to open the period and Perkins let a shot fly that cleanly made its way past Morrisville State goaltender Jakob Rasmussen.
Photo courtesy of SUNY?Fredonia
Fredonia State’s Blake Forslund (10) and Ryan Wilkinson (26) celebrate Forslund’s goal during their game against SUNY?Morrisville State, on Saturday, at the Steele Hall Ice Arena. The Blue Devils won, 5-2.
The crowd didn't have to wait long to celebrate again as Stephen Castriota scored the go-ahead goal just over five minutes later on assists by Matt Owczarczak and Travis Fernley.
Owczarczak grabbed a flying puck out of the air behind the Morrisville State goal and put it on the ice before feeding Castriota who raced around the goaltender's right side to cash in the wraparound goal to give Fredonia State its first lead of the contest.
After the second goal of the period, Morrisville State appeared to deflate and allowed two more goals in the period, 10 seconds apart, to give the Blue Devils the win in arguably their biggest game of the regular season.
"I think we've been a work in progress all year long and we are starting to reap some of the benefits of being persistent at the game," Fredonia State coach Jeff Meredith said. "The Pink the Rink game is a hard game to play in because there are a lot of distractions. I thought in the first period we got off to a good start and the way we played in the second period I expected in the first because of the distractions.
"We came out and got a great start in the third period," Meredith added. "Once we got the second one (of the period) so fast I thought Morrisville struggled to recover from that."
The win was good for the Blue Devils, as well as the crowd, but the Pink the Rink game is about remembering those who have fallen victim to cancer and to celebrate cancer survivors such as Bob and Peter Albano.
The No. 27 Albano jersey was worn during the game by Mac McAvoy as a tribute to Bob and Peter, who have both survived cancer, and the Albano family.
Bob Albano is a three-time cancer survivor and has been attending the Pink the Rink game for seven-straight years. Bob played NCAA hockey and later refereed at the college level. Over the years Bob developed a friendship with coach Meredith and has been attending the annual game since its inception.
"Every year it's fantastic," Bob said. "It's about what it represents for the families and the folks that want their memory on the back of their jersey. For us, we have had over 25 people in our family that have passed away and been victims of cancer. With my brother and I it's about us representing them as well as being survivors."
Bob's identical twin brother Peter is also a cancer survivor and makes the trip from Brantford, Ontario to the Fredonia State campus every year for the Pink the Rink game. Like his brother Bob, Peter has attended seven-straight Pink the Rink games.
The victory made attending the game all the sweeter for the Albano's, but early on in the contest it didn't look good for the Blue Devils.
Morrisville State jumped out to a 1-0 lead just seven minutes in on a power play goal by Daniel Morello.
Fredonia State was able to tie the game late in the first period on a goal by Blake Forslund, but less than a minute into the second period the Morrisville State power play would strike again as John Doyle found the back of the net to give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead, which they would hold until Perkins' equalizer to open the third period.
The Blue Devils' rough start may be attributed to the many distractions that surround the Pink the Rink game. The annual event is special to many who attend it and it is an experience like no other for the players as well.
"First of all, when you come out for warmups at 6:22 it's a standing-room-only crowd," Meredith said. "That only happens once a year. Before warmups guys are used to hanging out in the stands and taping sticks and being on the ice throwing pucks around in their sneakers. But with this game the place is full at quarter to six.
"On top of that you're putting on a pink jersey with a different name on the back, pink socks and a family is here so there are a lot of things going through their minds," Meredith continued. "We talked today about focusing on the process and sticking with the plan."
After Castriota scored the go-ahead goal in the third he would tack on another midway through the final stanza to give Fredonia State a 4-2 lead. Exactly 10 seconds later Forslund would strike again to give the Blue Devils a 5-2 lead and clinch the victory.
Blue Devils goalie Jeff Flagler made 35 saves to record the victory while Rasmussen stopped 41 shots in the loss.
"We're very fortunate in this community and on this campus. People are very supportive of this event," Meredith said. "They rally around causes like no other group and this is just a great cause. For us to come out and do 60 minutes of battle, there are people who battle every day. I'm proud to be a part of it and there are a lot of people who have worked very hard to make this game a success and I'm just a small part of that."