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State of Sports: From tragedy comes a night to remember

Feb. 3—H.S. HOCKEY

From tragedy comes a night to remember —C1

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DESPITE entering the weekend with a 3-7-0 record, you're unlikely to find an NHIAA team that's accomplished more this season than the St. Thomas/Winnacunnet/Dover co-operative girls hockey program.

Why? Primarily because STA/WHS/Dover is showing that team sports should be measured by much more than wins and losses.

"It's more than what happens on the field, on the court, on the ice," STA/WHS/Dover coach Al Oliveira said. "It's what happens outside of that that means more."

Christi Trudel is the central figure of this column. She's a senior at Winnacunnet High School and a center on the hockey team. Last year, Trudel's boyfriend, Logan Morse, died following an automobile crash. Logan graduated from Winnacunnet last spring.

Trudel said Logan attended most of the team's home games, and admitted she struggled during the first game this season when she looked in the stands and he wasn't there.

That's when Maria Hendrickson, one of the team's assistant coaches, came up with an idea that she relayed to Oliveira.

"Christi's boyfriend's favorite color is purple, so before our (second) game I held her out of the locker room and while we were talking, everyone in the locker room got purple wristbands," Oliveira explained. "When we went in, everybody held their hand up with a purple wristband. She just stood there and broke into tears. Then the two kids who were next to her just reached out and hugged her. Before you knew it, there was a collection of 18 kids around her and hugging her. It was awesome.

"We talked about being a family. It was really emotional. It helped her and it brought all the team together. I will never forget those three or four minutes in the locker room."

Trudel: "The first game of the season, I had a bit of a tough time. It was the first game I played without him there and my team saw that, my coaches saw that. The next game, Al kind of pulled me aside and basically was just stalling. I came in and the whole team had the purple bands on and said, 'This is just to help support you and Logan's family as well.'

"It definitely caught me off-guard. It was such a good, overwhelming feeling. I tried to hold back me tearing up, but it didn't work that well. It was great knowing I had that support system. It has been so helpful knowing that I have 18 girls that I can lean on whenever I need to."

That's just a fraction of the story, however. After the wristband game Oliveria said several of Trudel's teammates suggested that the team should dedicate a home game to Logan and his family. That's what happened on Jan. 20, when STA/WHS/Dover skated against Souhegan.

The rink was decorated in purple, the STA/WHS/Dover players wore purple ribbons and also taped their sticks purple. In addition, Logan's mom and his two brothers were on the ice for a ceremonial puck drop before the game began.

STA/WHS/Dover earned its second victory of the season that night. Making the event a bit surreal was the fact that Trudel scored the game-winning goal.

"We're rebuilding, and in a season like this you can't plan on winning that game," Oliveira said. "You can't plan on Christi getting the game-winning goal.

"We gave her the puck in the locker room afterwards. That was emotional as well."

It's hard to envision anyone scoring a more meaningful goal.

"I got a little emotional after that one," Trudel said. "I have a necklace that his mom got me with his ashes in it and basically anytime that I score or do anything (good) I say, 'That was for you.' And I hold (the necklace). That one was so much bigger, it felt like.

"That puck immediately went up on my shelf. I'm getting a case for it."

Trudel said she and Logan were boyfriend/girlfriend for about a year before his crash. Logan didn't play hockey, but there were other things that brought them together.

"He loved animals, never thought about himself and he was just the goofiest kid you will ever meet," she said. "No matter what, he would make you laugh, he would make you smile. That was him. He was a goofball, and we all loved him for it."

rbrown@unionleader.com