The inaugural Sabres Senior Day honoured graduating players from the SRSS on Wednesday afternoon before their game against the J.H. Bruns Broncos.
As the regular season is coming to an end, Joel Hartung, along with the coaching staff and other parents, organized a surprise ceremony for the nine graduating players.
“We've done it for some older siblings with the Carillon Sultans baseball program, and so just seeing this group of nine, it's a large group of seniors, they've played together and a bunch of dads have been involved in coaching and baseball and hockey. So, just thought we would do the same for the hockey group here,” Hartung says.
Seniors Will MacDonald, Cooper Penner, Seth Bergman, Theoren Koop, Griffin Plett, Mark Plett, Cody Neufeld, Lucas Thompson and Lewis Hartung were honoured with speeches and a gift.
Hartung and Head Coach John Laninga put together speeches to recognize the character and positive impact each player made. Hartung says that practicing and going over them brought him to tears.
“You think about the kids as a six-year-old or an eight-year-old, how they played in their squeaky little voices. Going to hockey practices and games and getting so excited about stuff, and it's cool to see them being young men now. But as parents, you always remember this stuff when they're kids and stuff flashbacks in your eyes when you come across accomplishments like graduating this year.”
Graduating senior and captain Seth Bergman says the surprise was “exciting” and a “good moment for all the seniors.”
Looking back on his hockey career, Bergman says he has a “lot of pride” in playing for the Sabres.
“You get to be with your best friends that you grew up with playing hockey. You go to school with them, you head to the rink, and just to play for your high school, there's a lot of pride in that. Wearing the Sabres logo has meant a lot, and these have been two of my best years of hockey,”
Bergman also recognizes his graduating teammates and the impact they’ve created.
“The other seniors on the team, they go out, they work hard and they want to win. Everybody wants to win and all of the seniors want to finish on a good note. It's exciting, for sure and I think highly of all the other seniors,”
He adds that he has made countless memories during his two years as a Sabre. However, a recent one off the ice stands out.
“A few weeks ago, we went to Miles Mac to play. The arena guy wasn't there to open the door and it was all delayed. When we got there, we sat on the bus for an hour and just listened to music and we were just jamming out. That was a great time with the boys, and I think that definitely brought us closer,” he says.
Bergman says that closing the minor hockey chapter is “emotional.” However, with playoffs nearing, he hopes to “finish on a good note.” He notes that the team has been preparing for the playoffs.
“It all starts at practice. We all come to the rink, happy to play hockey. But also, we get focused and we get on the ice. We want to have a good time, but we know that practice is where it starts, and that's how we get better. We're all mentally preparing for playoffs as we have a good team and we know that we could go all the way this year.”
As the cherry on top, the Sabres earned the 6-1 victory against the Broncos. For their final regular season game, the Sabres will play the top-ranked Garden City Gophers at the Centennial Arena on Friday. The puck drops at 4 PM. Starting next week, they will face off against the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes in a home series for the first round of playoffs.