The men’s ice hockey season came to a screeching halt after a health scare caused the Stonehill vs. Saint Anselm Northeast-10 Conference Championship game to be postponed.
The contest was originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27, but on Friday Feb. 26 the game was postponed after three Hawk hockey players tested positive for the mumps.
Daron Montgomery, Saint Anselm Director of Athletics, told the Crier that “both athletic departments and administration teams [Stonehill and Saint Anselm] talked through, and obviously in conjunction with the Northeast-10 Conference, and at the advising of the New Hampshire Department of Public Health, we were advised that it would be in the best interest of the student athletes safety and welfare from both institutions if the game were postponed.”
Maura Marshall, the Director of Health Services at Saint Anselm College, defines the mumps as “a virus a lot like chickenpox, influenza, or measles that is very contagious through respiratory droplets like sneezing, coughing, sharing cups or utensils, so through saliva.”
“It is characterized by swollen, tender glands around the jaw, which are called the parotid glands. So people complain about jaw pain, fever, headaches, and muscle aches,” Marshall explained.
Marshall also added “it can have long term effects such as deafness and sterility, and sometimes complications like encephalitis [inflammation of the brain].”
The good news is that all of the student athletes who tested positive for the mumps were vaccinated prior to contracting it.
“It is one of the childhood immunizations that we get, which we call MMR, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. We get two vaccines when we’re young to immunize us against mumps,” Marshall told the Crier.
According to Marshall, the vaccine is not 100 percent effective at preventing individuals from contracting mumps, but it does lessen the severity of the symptoms. “Because all of these students have been immunized, the cases have been very mild. They have gotten better in just a couple of days. They have felt a lot better, and their swelling has gone down very quickly.”
The three hockey players who were diagnosed with the mumps tested positive before the start of spring break, and they were sent home to be “ in isolation for five days, that is the contagious period.”
By midway through spring break, all three student athletes were no longer contagious and cleared to return to campus. There since have not been any other cases of the virus identified among the Saint Anselm student body.
As for the Northeast-10 Conference Championship Game, a new date could not be set for the contest, and it was subsequently canceled. The NE-10 announced the cancelation of the Championship Game in a statement posted on their website on March 2.
“Over the weekend, conversations between Saint Anselm, Stonehill, and the [NE-10] Conference office ultimately led to conference calls on Monday and Tuesday of last week, and at which time it was a conference office decision that a date could not be mutually agreed upon,” Daron Montgomery told the Crier.
Montgomery said that the problem was that Saint Anselm was on spring break the week of Feb. 27 through March 6, and Stonehill was on break the following week. Both teams would have needed an equal amount of practice time leading up to the game and “it was going to elongate the season by at least three more weeks, and Julie Ruppert [Northeast-10 Conference Commissioner] decided it would be in the best interest of all involved that the game not be played.”
NE-10 policy dictates that if a championship game cannot be played for any reason, the higher seeded team will win the title. Since Stonehill was the number 1 seed they have been crowned conference champions, and Saint Anselm finished second.
After the announcement that the Conference Championship Game would not be played, the Crier sat down with two of the senior captains on the men’s ice hockey team.
Senior co-captain Tyler Estee describes the situation as being tough because it was “out of our hands.” Estee continued by saying “the mumps, its not anyone’s fault for getting it. It’s just pretty unfortunate that it came right before our championship game.”
Senior co-alternate captain Mark Meads told the Crier “It’s unfortunate, because everyone wanted to play that game. Not just the seniors because it was our last game, but everyone was invested in it. We all thought we were taking that victory home no matter what, and now that they [The Northeast-10] gave the final to Stonehill, it’s unfortunate.”
Both Meads and Estee expressed that the team feels like there is “unfinished business.” Earlier in the season, Saint Anselm lost to Stonehill 5-2 in a game the Hawks felt they should have won.
“Going back to that game when we played Stonehill and lost in the regular season, it feels empty because we can’t play them again,” Estee added.
“We were much better than that team [Stonehill] the first time that we played them, and we played terribly. We wanted another chance to show that we were a better team, and it was unfortunate that we couldn’t do that,” Meads added.
The team was upset that the game could not be rescheduled, but Meads credits school and team officials for doing everything in their power to attempt to set a new date. “We know that Coach [Ed Seney] did everything that he could to get the game to happen, and the staff here. None of us fault them at all.”
St. A’s finished the season with an overall record of 12-11-3, and the team is already looking towards the 2016-2017 season. Most of the current roster will be returning next season as there are only three seniors (Mark Meads, Bryan Sullivan, and Tyler Estee) graduating.
Meads told the Crier “They’ll have a good team here next year. I know Coach [Seney] is working hard on recruiting, and the guys that were here this year, they put in a lot of work and they’ll be able to fill roles that we [the seniors] leave behind.”