MASSENA - Despite dropping a hard fought 6-5 contest to the Fort Drum Mountaineers in opening round play Saturday morning, the Massena Volunteer Fire Department never gave up in their quest for the Wounded Warrior Hockey for Heroes tournament trophy. The six-team, double-elimination tournament, held at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, coincides with the six-day-long Snowtown USA event, which raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, and the team ended up bringing home the hardware from the tournament in Watertown.
The event was hosted by the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.
With the opening defeat, the Massena Firefighters were put in the losers bracket and were playing in single-elimination games from the get-go.
I played all the way up through high school at (Massena Central.) Most of the guys on the team played through high school or junior hockey, firefighter Paul Brownell said. Going down (to Watertown) with the team, we know we had a good shot. Even in the loss to Fort Drum, we played hard and fought tough. ... We knew we had a chance after we won the second game.
The Mountaineers are made up of soldiers and Department of Defense civilians stationed at Fort Drum.
The New York State Troopers squad featured a few players from the north country, but the Massena team was the only one in the ournament primarily representing St. Lawrence County.
Other teams in the tournament included the Jefferson County Volunteer Firefighters, Watertown City Fire and the host NYSCOPBA Bulldogs.
Snowtown USA began on New Years Eve with fireworks in the evening and concluded Sunday with more fireworks and a closing ceremony. The hockey tournament ran Friday through Sunday.
The event also had a craft fair, public skating, live music and more activities.
Following the defeat against Fort Drum, the Massena Firefighters then rattled off three straight wins over Watertown City Fire, Jefferson County Volunteer Fire and the New York State Police. This success set up a rematch in the championship versus the Mountaineers.
Because the Mountaineers were undefeated, even the initial victory by Massena didnt clinch the championship yet. In a winner-take-all game, the Massena team defeated Fort Drum late Sunday afternoon.
Overall, Mr. Brownell explained that the tournament served a dual purpose. The experiences that the team encountered were important, and the trophy was just icing on the cake.
They had sponsors, donations, and part of the entry fee was to the Wounded Warriors. There was 50/50, chuck-a-puck, a raffle for a Jimmy Howard jersey and the various donations throughout the local businesses, he said.
We all had a ball out there. We met some of the Wounded Warriors. One guy we met talked about how he worked with the group and how he got started with them. He gave us a story on how he came into Wounded Warriors. He dealt with PTSD and he told us a story about that. Thats how he got involved with the program, Mr. Brownell said.
We told them that we will definitely be back and they even wanted us to host the tournament, but that wont be happening any time soon, he said.