It Took a Pandemic to End the Junior Team’s Season

The Northwood Junior Hockey Team set two ambitious team goals at the beginning of the season: defend their state championship and advance to the USA Hockey U18 Tier I National Championships. No hockey team prevented them from reaching those goals, but a global pandemic did.

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On March 10, during class, the soccer team got word that they were not going to be able to travel to Las Vegas for their upcoming tournament because of COVID-19. A few hours later, the Junior Team learned that they were going to have to withdraw from the state tournament for the same reason. The day the entire tournament and all USA Hockey championships were canceled.

The players, especially for the seniors, were devastated, Captain Daniel Colabufo ’20 stated, “As a senior, this was especially hard to hear, that our year was just over. We had worked all year for this, and it was tough knowing that our group would never play a game together again,” he said.

Colabufo’s disappointment was tempered by an appreciation for the experience. “Northwood Hockey has given me so much, and I will forever be grateful for all the memories I have and the time I spent playing for Coach Cassidy,” he said.

With the day going on and knowing the team couldn’t do anything to change what happened, so they did what they could and continued with their day and their routine the following day. The morning after the team had practice, and before the boys took the ice, Coach Cassidy came in and addressed the group about the situation. Colabufo was there and described the experience.

“Coach Cassidy was obviously very disappointed that we could not play in the State Tournament, and it was unfortunate because something we couldn’t control has ended our season,” said Colabufo. “It was an emotional meeting for everyone. Coach was just as disappointed as we were. It was out of his hands, and we all knew how hard we worked and how well he prepared us, which made it even harder,” he added.

It was a very emotional time for the players. It was hard to look around the room and see all of their brothers and coaches hurt from the news that they had all received in the past 24 hours. Taking the ice, the team kept their spirits high as they had a high-tempo and energetic practice. After practice was over the team hit the “Body Shop” one last time for a team lift, and after the lift, they had one of the most intense games of knockout anyone has ever seen.

Coach Cassidy’s first thoughts were about the veteran seniors. “When I first was told by Coach Riffle that we were withdrawing from states, I was numb. It didn’t seem real. Then it sunk in, and I was devastated for all of our players,  but even more so our three returning seniors. They returned when it was really difficult and accepted the challenge. I have so much respect for Danny (Daniel Colabufo ‘20), Boaker (Nate Boak ‘20) and Dev (Elijah Devereaux ‘20). I will always be thankful for their loyalty to our program. We were in a great spot to repeat as State Champions.”

The 2019-20 Junior Hockey Team’s season ends with an asterisk to denote the special circumstances around its conclusion. It also ends with an unmet goal that the class of 2020 will leave for next year’s squad.


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