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Panthers face off in annual alumni game

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O’FALLON – The members of the O’Fallon High hockey team squared off against former Panthers last week in the annual Alumni game.

Alumni from years stretching as far back as 1999 joined forces to take on the current varsity team in a friendly bragging rights match. Nine of the players in the game were current or former Panther captains.

The oldest and first ever captain for the Panthers was Jason Power in 1997 when the team was first started by his father. Former Panther captains who played in the game included, Jason Power (97’, 98’), Ben Leonard (01’,02’), Tristan Tikkanen (03’,04’), Brandon Poignee (05’), Billy Shacklady (06’), Nic Rolla (07’), Aaron York (13’), Nicholas Krivakuca (15’) and the team’s current captain Cameron Forgette (16’).

Over 23 alums took to the ice at Granite City, a great turnout for the event which has taken on several different formats throughout its history.  Although for many of them it was their first time on the ice in quite some time, the alumni got on the board quickly. Just less than 15 seconds after the opening puck dropped the alumni Panthers scored on a rebounded shot to gain the lead.

The Panthers of old were unable to maintain their pace and eventually conceded to the current team in a close 5-4 finish. Last Sunday’s win for the active Panthers marked the first time the alumni team lost since the tradition started years ago.

The game is a coveted tradition by both players and fans alike. It gives former players an entertaining way of reconnecting and lacing up together on the ice again. This year’s game was also a chance for spectators, friends, family, and members of the team to donate canned goods for the O’Fallon Food Pantry.

“It was enjoyable for me,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “I didn’t really know what to expect but it was a really fun experience for the kids and it’s something that we can build on in the future. I knew going into it if the varsity team wanted to win they were going to have to try their hardest.”

Jason Power, a former player and coach of the O’Fallon Panthers, has recently started the O’Fallon Hockey Alumni Association. The group consists of former Panther players who have teamed up to try and rejuvenate youth hockey in the area to coincide with the new Metro Rec Plex ice rink. The rink is scheduled to be available to community sometime next fall. Power and the OHAA has started by creating a floor hockey program in several of the O’Fallon grade schools.