During Williamsville North’s epic run to a State hockey title a young man with eyes as big as his heart was able to ride along for the journey.
Senior Matt Henry a student manager for the Spartans was there through it all this past season. Henry was right there on the bench while the final seconds ran out at HarborCenter as his Spartans claimed victory over Section V’s Pittsford Panthers to give their school it’s 5th State championship. He celebrated with his teammates and enjoyed every minute of it.
He was there when they clinched their ticket to Super Monday with a win over Niagara Falls two weeks earlier just hours after having his wisdom teeth pulled.
When they defeated West Genny in the Regional game out in Camillus, NY Henry and his Father made the three plus hour drive separately because Matt had a game of his own that morning here in Buffalo. He wanted to be there for his friends, his teammates, his hockey family.
Henry, no stranger to the rink has been playing hockey for the past seven years, just not on ice skates. Henry is a member of the Buffalo Sabres Intermediate Gold sled hockey team. He has a disability, cerebral palsy.
That however has not stopped him from his ultimate goal of wearing his school’s hockey sweater. This Saturday, thanks to Matt’s persistence, the Williamsville North hockey team will face-off against Henry’s sled hockey team at the Northtown Center in Amherst at 430pm.
“I won’t have this opportunity ever again” Henry said “It’s going to be pretty cool to wear the team jersey and actually play in it.”
He’s not the only one that is excited either. Daniel Mosher a captain with the Spartans was especially interested in taking part “He’s (Henry) basically North hockey’s biggest fan” Mosher said. “Matt means a lot to our team. Playing in this game for him is the least we can do.”
The Sabres Intermediate Gold sled hockey team is made up of a number of players with different disabilities but you may not notice and none of them will let you feel sorry for them.
“My parents always believed and encouraged me. So I have a disability, it doesn’t mean I can’t do what I want to do and have fun” Henry said.
He will be playing as a member of the Williamsville North hockey team against his sled hockey team. Both clubs won championships a day apart. “This is going to be a fun event for everyone. The North team has never been on sleds before. I have never had an opportunity to skate with them, this kind of makes me feel more part of the team” Henry said.
His Sabres Intermediate Gold teammate Adam Melluso a senior at Williamsville East also has cerebral palsy.
Melluso has been able to do something similar next month, he’ll trade in his Sabres sled hockey jersey for that of his schools. For one game he will be a Flame and maybe even linemates with Fed leading scorer Mike Steffan. That game is scheduled for May 13th at 3pm also at the Northtown Center on the Olympic rink.
Melluso isn’t the Will East team manager. He has hopes of one day becoming a play-by-play announcer like his idol Rick Jeanneret. Currently Melluso provides PxP for the Lockport Express of the North American Tier III hockey league that plays their home games at the Cornerstone Arena in Lockport.
This past winter Melluso had the opportunity to call a pair of Williamsville East playoff games. He’s very good too. Melluso is waiting to hear back from several universities that are known to have good broadcasting departments.
These days the internet is full of videos and stories of high-school kids making the wrong decision, on Saturday you will see a group of high-school kids from Will North making the right one.
Admission to both sled hockey games are free.