With a special guest on hand, Benilde-St. Margaret's rolled in its Section 6AA boys hockey playoff opener.
Jack Jablonski greeted his teammates before the game, then the Red Knights beat Holy Family 7-0 at the . Jablonski, a BSM sophomore, suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a game on Dec. 30. Thursday marked the first time he was in an arena with his teammates since then.
On his CaringBridge page, Jack's family said it was his "biggest dream" since first landing in the hospital. Greeting his teammates was a surprise, which took some careful execution:
Last night, shortly after 6:15 PM, Jack rolled into the St. Louis Park Rec Center via the zamboni entrance. He wanted his visit to be a surprise to his team and with a carefully crafted plan, thanks to Coach Pauly and several others, it was. Dressed in his red BSM hockey jacket, halo still in tact, Jack zipped his power chair along the backside of the west rink and into the locker room while his fellow Varsity teammates were getting a pep talk from Pauly.
As the local paparazzi followed his every move, Jack quietly slipped into the locker room and waited for the big moment, the one he had been dreaming about for nearly two months. And what a moment it was. His teammates filed in and jaws dropped as they saw Jabby's face. A rash of high-fives broke out and each player filed by, some leaning down to dish out a hug, others just beaming as they patted him on the shoulder. It was a moment they had all been waiting for.
... As Coach Pauly said, "Our team is whole tonight," and Mike Jeremiah, Team Chaplain, quoted Shel Silverstein's book, "The Missing Piece." He said, "Things are not perfect until that piece is returned. This is it tonight."
The extra motivation gave BSM a boost in the first, as the Red Knights jumped out to a 4-0 lead. BSM added two more in the second and one in the third.
Grant Besse led the Red Knights with four goals and two assists. Jake Horton, T.J. Moore and Dan Labosky added a goal apiece.
BSM's emotional push to get to the state tournament—with Jack's No. 13 on their sweaters—got some additional help on Thursday, as No. 7 seed Armstrong upset No. 2 seed Eden Prairie, meaning the third-seeded Red Knights will avoid the Eagles in the semifinals. If BSM can top Armstrong on Saturday, the team will get either No. 1 Minnetonka or No. 4 Wayzata next Wednesday for the section title.