Keith Nicholson could not escape the celebration after he broke open a regional championship a week ago with three goals during a dramatic third period. After the buzzer sounded, teammates surrounded the inspirational forward and doled out congratulations.
It's probably a good thing Nicholson had the helmet and the body armor on because he got punched in the arm, slapped in the head, poked in the chest.
The recognition of a big moment came from every direction. It was the senior's final game in a Mounties uniform at Sport-O-Rama, and the folks who know the story line weren't letting him slip off the ice without a proper send-off.
"It was so much fun watching a friend tear it up like that," classmate Willy Baker said.
Nicholson was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 12, and was fighting a flare-up a year ago when Suffern was preparing for the state tournament. He was hurting. Nicholson came back from that attack faster and stronger, and will be playing against Williamsville North in a Division I state semifinal at Utica Memorial Auditorium on Saturday.
"It could pretty much come back at any time, so even though it's called 'remission,' it never really goes away," Nicholson said of the condition, which causes inflammation of the digestive tract. "Last year, I dropped to 130 pounds when I was sick. Right now, I'm probably 165 pounds, but I'm on the medicine always. There's nothing they can do when you're in a flare-up, you have to just deal with it, and that's really the worst part."
And that's as much as he'll complain.
"When he was dealing with everything last year, he didn't tell anyone," Mounties coach Rob Schelling said. "He just keeps battling. That's why he's so well liked by his teammates and friends and teachers; he cares more about others than he does himself."
Nicholson is part of an energetic first line with Mike Gorton and John Redgate, and he's second on the squad with 19 goals. The natural scorer doesn't mind playing in the shadow of teammates like Jake Jaeger, Tyler Stark, Jon Fuchs and Baker.