A Championship Gesture
The new Plymouth South High School opened its doors in late August and by Mid-March the boys hockey team made its contribution to the fresh trophy case by winning the Panthers first ever State Hockey Championship. It was a magical ride for Plymouth South. They were the number three seed in Division Two South and found themselves battling from behind as part of their championship run.
"What I love about this team is that they don’t panic…this team just doesn’t panic,” said Plymouth South Coach Mike McCosh.
In the state final at The Garden, the Panthers were challenged by Stoneham, riding an emotional wave into the title game. There were multiple lead changes, great goaltending, drama, tears and moments to cherish. Plymouth South trailed 3-2 in the third period when junior Alex Hayward popped in the first of his two late goals to tie the game at three. As the horn sounded the teams were headed to overtime. “We were confident, we were working hard in OT we wanted to finish it,” said Plymouth South captain Ryan Cummings.
In overtime the Panthers would win it on a goal that wasn't intended to go in. “I was skating down the ice and looked over my shoulder and saw three Stoneham players so I took the puck to the net for a line change and it went in," smiled Hayward. After the goal light went on it was mayhem. A pile of Plymouth South players celebrating a hockey championship for the first time in school history. "I can’t even describe the feeling, the celebration was amazing,” beamed captain Sean Colbert. "Life around town and in school has been crazy," added captain Joey Van Winkle. "Everyone is saying congratulations and patting us on the back!"
Plymouth South had defeated a mighty Stoneham team that played its entire season without junior forward James Luti, who passed away in November. Before the game, a picture of Luti was shown on the scoreboard above center ice. Luti's #11 jersey hung behind the Stoneham bench, while most Spartan students in attendance wore tee shirts with Luti's name and number 11 on their backs. All watched the trophy presentation, half of the hearts filled with joy, the other half aching. The euphoria for Plymouth South carried into their locker room where it continued until it was time to board the bus. Coach Mike McCosh slipped out of the celebration and walked down the Garden hallway to the Stoneham locker room where he presented the Game Puck to the Stoneham captains and asked that it be given to the parents of James Luti.
Think about it.. Mike McCosh has coached for 22 seasons - an entire career - and waited for this moment. He has waited to take home a championship puck and perhaps have it mounted on a plaque or his family room wall. Yet amidst the joy and celebration he thought of someone who was hurting and who deserved the puck more than he.
"I lost my brother to a drunk driver when he was 18 years old," explained a misty eyed McCosh."There are things in life more important than hockey and winning a championship. I've lost two players over my years of coaching. I know that family is hurting and I just want them to know that Plymouth South is with that family...definitely!" It was indeed a championship gesture. A coach, a champion with class and compassion. Plymouth South waited a long time to boast "we're number one!" They are winners in the most important game of all.