Senior right winger Jake Hyer was spearheading the best Whitesboro hockey season in nearly a decade.
The Warriors had clinched their first division title since 2007-08 and were playing their best hockey as the season progressed. However, the fortunes for Hyer, and possibly the Warriors, changed in one agonizing moment during the second period of the Warriors’ 4-3 overtime victory over Auburn on Feb. 2.
Hyer, who has been on the Warriors’ ‘White Line’ since his freshman season, took the ice as he has so many times with his linemates. After chipping the puck past an Auburn defender, Hyer took a hit and tried to remain on his feet, but his right skate stuck in the ice and he fell awkwardly, trapping his leg under the weight of his body.
“I knew it was serious because I’ve seen him deal with a lot,” said Whitesboro head coach Todd Manley, who took over during Hyer’s first season. “He had a shoulder injury his sophomore year, but this was the first time I’ve seen him go down and he was telling us it was bad as soon as we got over to him. … You could see it was twisted a little bit and could tell it wasn’t good.”
The result was a broken fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle. Hyer underwent surgery Monday and had a steel plate and eight screws inserted into his lower leg. Recovery time is expected to take 8 to 12 weeks, which could be in time for Hyer to return for the end of the lacrosse season.
“The injury was more devastating mentally than it was physically and was very frustrating once I realized my last high school hockey season had come to a close unexpectedly,” Hyer said. “The past four years have been a turning point for the Whitesboro hockey program that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it. My freshman year was the first time in five years Whitesboro had made the playoffs and from there on we only went uphill. Suffering an injury at this time was even more aggravating because of the successful season we have had thus far as well as our No. 1 seed heading into playoffs.”
The name ‘White Line’ is the designation Manley gives his top line. Hyer has been on the Warriors’ top line since his freshman season and was playing at a high level. Hyer was playing his typical all-around game, averaging 2.4 points per game with 16 goals and 22 assists.
Hyer was having another impressive game against Auburn, recording a goal and an assist before the injury. The Warriors will have to attempt to replace what Hyer provides on the ice, but his impact as a leader is just as big.
As one of six seniors, and a captain along with JoVon Mucitelli and Matt Hajdasz, Hyer has been the unquestioned leader of the team that is 12-6-2 entering sectional play.
“He’s our captain,” Manley said. “He’s our leader and leading scorer. And the biggest thing is in the locker room. He’s such a leader, helping players with everything from the game to the classroom.”
Another example of Hyer’ selflessness came on ‘Senior Night’.
“We have six seniors, so we couldn’t start everyone and he volunteered to sit out,” Manley said. “He said to me before game ‘I don’t need to start, I just want to win.’ He’s the best person in our locker room. He’s one of those kids that when you’re having a bad day he’s the perfect kid you want to run into. He makes everything positive.”
The Warriors will look to their senior group with Mucitelli, Hajdasz, Nick Welch, Drew Weller and Cameron Rorick.
Welch and junior Brandon Webb were Hyer’s linemates. Welch has 33 points and Webb’s 21 are third on the team. In Hyer’s absence Andrei Terenzetti has joined the line and dished out an assist in a 6-4 loss to Skaneateles Thursday, and a goal in Whitesboro’s 3-1 victory over Cazenovia Saturday.
Mucitelli and Manley realize one player won’t be able to make up for Hyer’s absence.
“With a player like Jake, you can’t put on person in and fill his shoes,” Manley said. “We have 20 guys here and if we can have everyone do a little. What he does on the power play, what he does in locker room, and what he does off ice. We identified that we can do this. We were going to lose him at the end of the year anyway. Now we just have to do it sooner than expected. We use an analogy that one guy can’t pull the Zamboni down the ice itself. We all have to pull it down the ice together.”
Mucitelli has been Hyer’s teammate for the past three seasons and will sorely miss his friend on the ice, but is ready to take on even more responsibility.
“Since our years playing competitively together, his skills and talent have impacted all of our teams,” Mucitelli said. “Since there are three captains, Jake, myself and Matt Hajdasz, each of us contribute our own leadership skills to the team, but, we all have big skates to fill. Each team player has to intensify their mindset 110% as well as the physical aspect.”
Another leader for Manley’s team is closest to Jake. Luke Hyer, Jake’s younger brother, is just a sophomore and is one of the better and reliable players on the team.
“We talked about as a coaching staff that Luke would be one of our leaders next year,” Manley said. “I joked with him that I guess your brother thought you were ready now to be a leader.”
The Warriors are 1-1 since Hyer’s injury. Scranton, Terenzetti and Maycock scored goals, while goaltender Jacob Domagal stopped 26 of 27 shots in Whitesboro’s win over Cazenovia for a nice end to the regular season, while also giving the team momentum and confidence entering postseason play.
The Warriors hope with every practice and passing day, they can find the right formula and come together in time for Friday night’s quarterfinal home game against fourth-seeded Cortland-Homer.
The Warriors won Section 3 Division II National for first time since 2007-08, which was also the last time they had a winning record. They appear to be building a perennial contender, as they have plenty of talented underclassmen, which bodes well for this and future seasons.
However, the Warriors’ focus remains on the immediate future and making a deep run over the next few weeks.
“I think our depth is probably one of our strongest attributes,” Manley said of his team’s effort against Skaneateles in their first game without Hyer. “We had a big game out of our third group Noah Scranton, Andrew Maycock and Dakota Major. We had six points out of them (Thursday) night.”
Scranton, just an eighth grader, is coming on strong, scoring five of his eight points in the past four games. The late-season growth of Whitesboro’s underclassmen to go along with the leadership and experience the upperclassmen provide still makes the Warriors a capable and dangerous team going forward. Domagal, a junior, and freshman Jordan Joslyn give Whitesboro a solid situation in net.
Although he won’t be able to help them on ice, Whitesboro will still have Hyer available as a vocal and emotional leader, as he’s determined to help out any way possible.
“I hope to still positively impact the team by attending the games and some practices to encourage and support my teammates as they continue to work hard and attempt to advance in the playoffs,” Hyer said. “This team has the dedication, commitment, and drive required to win games as well as two great coaches who have good knowledge of the game. In order to advance in the post season, the team will need to continue to work hard every day in practice and the upperclassmen must elevate their game to the next level and set an example for the younger players to follow.”
That type off mindset will certainly help Hyer in his future endeavors. He plans on attending Utica College next fall to study criminal justice. Hyer also sees the good that can come out of suffering such a setback.
“Facing this adversity is definitely a test,” Hyer said. “But at this point nothing I can do will allow me to heal any faster. With that in mind, overcoming this obstacle will help prepare me for other challenges I may face later in life.”
That type of ability to see the big picture and remain positive is what Manley has always seen in Hyer.
“He’s obviously a special player and a special kid,” Manley said. “He’s been on our top line since his freshman season. He’s been on our ‘White Line’ for four years. It’s tough giving his ‘White Line’ jersey to another player, but as a coach you feel real fortunate to work with a kid like that for four years. He’s just one of those kids you know is going to be successful no matter what he does. … He’s just a special kid.”
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at