Rome – For decades, Peter Mastracco has given a lot to the game of ice hockey. Friday night, the Rome Free Academy alum and former coach was on the receiving end of a huge show of support during a home game against Fayetteville-Manlius.
The 1988 Black Knights alum has been battling colon cancer for eight years, and the January 29 game was the third time the community held a benefit game in his honor.
“This is Rome, New York,” Mastracco said with an appreciative smile during the game RFA eventually won 3-2. “People in Rome take care of their own. It’s always been that way. It’s a great turnout tonight. It’s fantastic. It feels good.”
Mastracco didn’t feel good enough before the 2015-16 began, so he decided to step down from his assistant coach position, one he held for two decades.
“I’d like to be out there with them,” Mastracco said during the second period. “They’ve got good energy tonight. They’re focused.”
Everyone in Kennedy Arena was focused on the fundraiser and trying to raise as much money as possible to help the Mastracco family. T-shirts were sold, food basket and 50-50 raffles were held, and other things were done to try and match last year’s stunning total of $5,500 raised. That goal was not met, but the $2,922 raised was impressive.
“They’re doing good,” Mary Jo Miller said as she helped with some of the sales. “The t-shirts are going well, the raffles. Everybody steps up (for this). This is about as good as last year.”
Miller and her husband were helping out because they’ve known Mastracco from when he coached their son and longer. Others in the crowd of hundreds had similar ties, including Sherry Mecca and Michelle Entelisano, the women who helped organize the first Face Off Against Colon Cancer game in 2013-14.
“He didn’t want it,” Mecca said of the fundraisers, citing Mastracco’s humility as the reason. “But the kids pulled together for him, and the community.”
“He’s such a huge force,” Entelisano said. “He has so much support.”
And Mastracco has needed it through the years as he’s gone through a variety of treatments for a disease that can be deadly.
“Financially it’s been difficult,” Lynn Mastracco said of her husband’s battle physically, emotionally and financially. “Alternative medicine is very, very expensive. “It’s $600 to $1,200 a month. It’s not covered (by insurance).”
Nowadays Mastracco is taking supplements and he has a radio frequency machine and “other stuff.”
“It helps keep things moving along,” Mastracco said. “I feel good.”
Mastracco felt good enough in the fall to assist as a coach with his daughter’s varsity field hockey team. He’d coached his son the past few years in ice hockey, but now that he is in college it gave him a chance to spend more family time with his youngest child.
“This was a big thing,” Lynn Mastracco said of the change. “We’ve been able to do more family stuff.”
And the RFA hockey family was glad to come through with a victory for him Friday night.
“He’s done a lot for everyone,” RFA goalie Ethan Siderine said after he earned the win with some spectacular saves and help from his teammates. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be a goalie.”
Derrick Miller scored the first two goals of the game in the second period for RFA after a physical but scoreless first period. F-M battled back with a goal from Karl Farber 29 seconds after Miller’s second goal and it stayed 2-1 heading into the third period.
Anton Russell made a brilliant defensive play to stop a breakaway by F-M three minutes into the third period, but the Hornets persisted and tied the game on a goal by Katie Neuburger. Marco Pasqualetti put the host back on top three minutes later then Siderine’s saves and great defensive plays by Brian Birnie with four minutes to go helped keep RFA’s playoff hopes alive.
“This was a big win for us in a lot of ways,” RFA coach Jason Nowicki said.
F-M 0 1 1 – 2
RFA 0 2 1 – 3
F-M (3-13-1): Karl Farber 1-0, Katie Neuburger 1-1, Garrett Zogby. Saves – Brandon Heyman 21.
RFA (3-12-1): Derrick Miller 2-1, Anton Russell 0-1, Marco Pasqualetti 1-0, Jeremy Bereza 0-1. Saves – Ethan Siderine 16.