By David Fong
TROY — Shannon Hoefler had the best seat in the house.
“She’s watching right now,” her son, Prestyn Hoefler, said following the Troy hockey team’s emotional 5-4 victory over Cincinnati Sycamore Sunday evening at Hobart Arena. “She’s proud. She’s happy. She’s happy we did it.”
On Oct. 2, 2013 — Prestyn’s freshman year at Troy — his mother Shannon lost her battle with breast cancer. Sunday, Shannon — along with other breast cancer warriors — were honored as the Trojans held its first-annual “Pink in the Rink” Breast Cancer Awareness Night. The Trojans wore commemorative pink jerseys for the game, five of which were auctioned off after the game, with the proceeds going to the Pink Ribbon Girls, a local female reproductive cancer support group.
It also was Senior Night, as Hoefler, Caleb Mangas, Charlie Ryan and Caleb Salazar were honored before the game.
With so much going on, hundreds of friends and relatives came out to support Prestyn and honor his mother’s memory.
“That’s got to be tough for him,” Troy coach Phil Noll said. “He had a lot on his plate tonight. He had his mom’s dance school here, he had cousins and other family members here — that’s a lot going on. But I feel like he responded well to all of that.”
Indeed, Hoefler scored Troy’s first two goals of the night, then had the assist as junior Tristan Meek broke up a 4-4 tie when he knocked in the game-winning goal with just 2:37 to play. From there, Troy held off a late charge by the Aviators to pull out the victory.
Rather than be nervous with so many people there to see him, however, Hoefler said he drew energy from the crowd.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was so amazing to see everyone out there. I loved going out on the ice. That’s the best therapy there is for me. A lot of my teammates were asking me before the game if I was OK — it helped being around them. I love being out there with them. I love being out there with my brothers.”
After Sycamore scored a little more than six minutes into the game to take a 1-0 lead, Troy answered just 36 seconds later when Hoefler scored off an assist from Jack McGuirk and Salazar. Salazer’s mother, Heather, is a breast cancer survivor and executive director of the Pink Ribbon Girls. She took part in the ceremonial puck drop before the game.
Troy would add to hits lead with just 5 seconds remaining in the first period when Hoefler added his second goal, this time off an assist from Ryan.
The Trojans dominated play throughout the game, but every time it looked as if they might blow things open, they would commit untimely penalties than stalled momentum and allowed Sycamore to claw its way back into the game.
“We struggled offensively,” Noll said. “Our penalties were very costly. The timing of the penalties was just as costly as the amount of penalty minutes we had. We allowed them to get back into the game by giving them a man advantage.”
Sycamore scored early in the second period to tie the game at 2-2, but the Trojans would take the lead minutes later when John Wehrkamp score off an assist from freshman Zach Uhlenbrock. The Trojans would maintain that 3-2 advantage heading into the third period.
With 13:53 to play in the game, the Trojans got a little breathing room when Uhlenbrock scored off an assist from Meek. Rather than slam the door shut, however, Troy gave up a pair of goals — the second of which came with 5:57 to play in the game — as the Aviators tied things at 4-4.
With time running out, however, Troy would manage to to pull out the win when Meek scored off Hoefler’s assist.
“All in all, I’m happy,” Noll said. “It wasn’t always pretty, but I’ll take it.”
Nobody in Hobart Arena was as happy as Hoefler on this night, however.
“I wanted to win this one for my mom,” he said.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong