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Mounts win one for Joan Ephrata rallies after shocking death of teammates’ mother
By: JOHN CRAWFORD Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
Trevor Seibel stood with the puck inside in the blue line, surrounded by a maelstrom of emotions few ever experience.
The Mountaineers had lost a two goal lead to the Annville-Cleona Dutchmen and were now tied 4-4 in overtime. The game was the second in the double elimination CPIHL playoffs held at Klick Lewis Arena. Ephrata lost its first game, as had Annville, so both teams needed the next goal to advance.
Along with the shrill emotions of a hockey game, Seibel, his brother and teammate Alex and their father Tracy faced the rawer and deeper emotions over the death of Joan Seibel early Monday morning. Most everyone in the Ephrata crowd probably hoped for Trevor to win the game in a Brett Favre-like fashion by shooting the puck; instead, he passed to Steven Zuziak on the wing. Zuziak then put a rising shot into the net to give Ephrata a 5-4 victory.
Asked if ever scored an overtime game winner, Zuziak said, "Not since I was in mites, so I think this one matters a little bit more. Trevor had the puck on the point, he passed it to me. I lined up a one timer, closed my eyes and prayed it went in. Sure enough, it went in."
"After we won, the first thing I started saying was ‘that’s for you, Joan, that’s for you, Joan.’"
Ephrata’s ice hockey community had known since late January they needed to rally around Joan Seibel.
"On January 29, we went up to Hershey Medical Center," explained Tracy. "She was diagnosed with acute leukemia, which is a very treatable leukemia. (It has a) ninety-five percent rate of recovery."
Despite the good odds on recovery, Joan and the Seibels faced the grueling reality of cancer treatments. "She was going to have 28 days of chemotherapy," said Tracy, so the other hockey moms began organizing help. Deb Buohl said they had already gathered a basket of various gift cards to help with the many expenses of fighting cancer, concentrating on cards for food and gas.
Joan had recently returned home when the unimaginable happened.
"We came home Sunday evening at seven o’clock and about two-thirty in the morning, she called me downstairs because she had such a bad headache," recalled Tracy. "I was on the phone with Hershey asking what I can give her because of the medications."
"While I was on the phone, she passed out on the couch. She had a brain hemorrhage."
Joan Seibel, Tracy’s wife of nearly 20 years and Alex’s and Trevor’s mother, had passed away at 44.
As the news spread, the CPIHL playoff game scheduled for Monday was delayed until Wednesday and thought had been given to forfeiting the game.
Team captain Josh Buohl learned what happened when Trevor texted him Monday.
"We thought it might work out that the viewing would be (Wednesday)," said Buohl. "If that’s how it was, we were going to forfeit the game and meet somewhere as a team and go to (the viewing) together."
The services were set for Thursday but there was still uncertainty if the game would be played. Collectively, the team and their parents let the brothers decide.
"I called the captain, Josh, and he told me it’s up to us," said Trevor. "I talked to him and said ‘she’d want us to play one more game for my mom. Let’s do it for her. It’s my senior year. Let’s play one more game hard for my mom.’"
"I really wanted to play for my Mom and play with my brother again," Alex said. "It may be the last time we play together."
The decision to play set plans in motion to honor Joan from the players and the parents.
"The kids (dedicated) the game to Joan" said Jen Wolf. "(Josh) found that the color for the fight against leukemia is orange. He went out and got some orange stick tape and all the boys are wrapping their sticks in orange. Chase Weik went and got stickers made with the initials JS to put on their helmets. We’re going to have a moment of silence before the game starts. The mothers are going to be wearing the carnations."
"They’ve been great, all of them," said Trevor. "They came over to see us Monday night.’
The support went beyond the Ephrata team.
"Even the kids who I played with in travel years ago, they’ve been in contact with me when they found out," added Trevor. "It’s not just Ephrata, kids from Penn Manor and Pequea Valley called me."
"The support has been amazing," said Tracy. "I got flowers (Wednesday) from the Manheim Township Ice Hockey team."
Hockey, like life, goes on and Ephrata took to the ice for the important playoff game against Annville-Cleona. As noted earlier, both teams faced elimination with a loss and the contest began with tentativeness from both sides.
The hesitancy gave way as the Dutchmen pressed offensively while the Mounts attempted to spring the snipers Weik and Zuziak loose. While Ephrata goalie Logan Pogwist needed to make saves on AC players Cody Brightbill and Matthew Reigle, Buohl’s blind pass out of his defensive zone nearly sprung Weik loose on a breakaway with three minutes gone in the game.
Two game minutes later, Zuziak took a shot on a two-on-one break with Weik but they didn’t convert the chance.
Ephrata scored first when Zuziak intercepted a pass just inside the AC blue line and went in on the Dutchmen goalie Cody Keller with 6:21 left in the first.
"I saw (the defenseman) looking for the pass so I spied on it, it came and it worked perfectly," he said. "The goalie left his blocker side open so I shot for it and it went in."
A-C’s Tanner Fitting even the score on the power play at 4:17 when he took a shot that Pogwist saved but Fitting picked up the rebound and scored.
Both goals were unassisted.
Zuziak put the Mounts back on top 2:48 into the second when Weik set him near the goal.
"I was in the circle and Chase Weik gave me a beauty of a pass, so I just got it and shot it," explained Zuziak. "It went into the top (of the net)."
Weik picked up the lone assist.
The Mounts controlled the play through the second period and outshot the Dutchmen 9-7 but the score stayed at 2-1 until late in the period. Weik moved up the right wing and managed to get around an AC defenseman but did not have full control of the puck. Keller tried to take advantage by coming out of the net to poke check the puck away but it squirted past both players. With the puck sliding past the goal, Weik launched himself over Keller to push the puck into the net.
"I just laid out for it and hit the puck. I had my eyes closed and hoped for the best," Weik explained.
With 63 seconds left in the second, the Mounts seemed certain to take the 3-1 lead into the third but Brightbill scored unassisted with seven seconds left to edge AC closer at 3-2.
Conventional hockey wisdom says that the team giving up last second goals will suffer a letdown going into the next period but instead, the Mounts controlled play throughout the third as Annville took a series of early penalties. Ephrata did not score but killing the penalties wasted time for the Dutchmen.
Trevor Seibel scored with 4:57 left in the third when he put the rebound of Buohl’s shot into the net. Victory seemed assured but throughout the night, Annville’s best offense came after Ephrata goals. Daulton Kapp continued that trend when he scored on a low, long shot with 3:51 left to pull to 4-3 and Brightbill tied the score with 52 seconds left in the third.
Earlier in the evening while the brothers talked about how Joan guided them through their hockey careers, Trevor recalled, "She wanted us to go far with it. Continue and not slack off. She would keep us in it. If there were hard times, she would tell you to keep your head up." Losing a two goal lead in an elimination game counts as hard times in hockey, but Trevor kept his head up in the overtime. That’s how he found Zuziak low in the circle and fed him the pass Zuziak redirected to complete a hat trick and give Ephrata the emotional 5-4 victory. Trevor got the lone assist on the scoreboard but in the game dedicated to her memory, Joan Seibel factored prominently in the winning goal.
"Joan was the true definition of a hockey mom," said Wolf. "She made it to every game that she could. She’s going to be missed big time. The games are not going to be the same without her."
According to Pennlive.com, the CPIHL held an impromptu fundraiser at Wednesday’s game for the Seibel family. According to the report, more than $1,500 was raised from collections at the door.
Ephrata will continue its playoff journey this Wednesday night (8 p.m.) at Lancaster Ice Rink where the Mounts will face Lampeter-Strasburg. More JOAN, page B-3