A team of hockey players from the Parkland, Fla., high school where a gunman killed 17 people earlier this month has won a state title and a berth in a national tournament being staged in the Twin Cities.
The 17-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Eagles upset top-ranked East Lake 3-1 in the semifinals Sunday morning near Fort Myers, then defeated Tampa Jesuit 7-4 in the afternoon for the Tier 1 Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida championship.
Matthew Horowitz, who scored two goals and three assists in the final, said Sunday immediately after the game, "We plan to bring all our medals to the school, all 17."
And they made good on that pledge, leaving their medals along with an Eagles T-shirt with player autographs amid the growing memorial outside the school.
Next stop for the Florida team is the Plymouth Ice Center for the youth-level national tournament March 22-26. The Wayzata Hockey Association (WYHA) is the host.
Stoneman Douglas reopens Wednesday, two weeks after 14 students and three staff members were fatally shot on Feb. 14 by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.
"No one was lacking energy in the locker room — we all came to play, we were all ready," Eagles senior Joey Zenobi told ABC 10-TV in Broward County. "This wasn't for us. This was for the 17 victims. We played for them; so passionate, so emotional. It's all for them."
The road to the state title was not easy. Stoneman Douglas lost three games Friday and Saturday, making the Eagles the bottom seed for Sunday's games. But the team claimed the trophy by beating two foes Sunday that it lost to the day before.
Bonnie Hauptman, whose sons Adam and Matthew are on the team, said, "It was a very powerful afternoon. The boys were determined to bring home a trophy for their team and their school."
Hauptman said the team usually has 19 in uniform, but a couple of guys didn't dress for the game, so "they were a team of 17, and they knew they lost 17. ... They played with heart and played for the victims."
Tom Garavaglia, who was at the rink near Fort Myers in his role as high school committee chairman with Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida, said the "last few seconds were unbelievable to watch. Knowing what all of those kids went through, what all of those families went through, the fact that they now have something positive to share with their community is wonderful."
Garavaglia added, "The hockey world is such a small and special world, full of support and kind people no matter where you go. And that entire world was all pulling for Stoneman Douglas [Sunday] afternoon."
When the Eagles arrive in Minnesota next month, they will be in Marjory Stoneman Douglas' native state. Marjory Stoneman was born on April 7, 1890, in Minneapolis. When her parents separated, she moved with her mother to Massachusetts as a child. She attended Wellesley (Mass.) College and became a journalist and author. After later moving to Florida, she was a passionate defender of the Everglades.
An online fund-raising campaign is seeking $10,000 in donations to cover the team's national tournament travel expenses.
WYHA President Greg Gibson said Monday that his association hopes that Stoneman Douglas' opportunity to be in the 16-team national field will "in some way bring some healing to the school."
Gibson said the tournament organizers "will come together to make the most of this special hockey event" for the Stoneman Douglas contingent. "Our hearts, all of us in the hockey community go out to this school."
Wayzata's Junior Gold A team has an automatic berth by virtue of being the host. Minnesota has one more slot to fill. That will be settled on March 18.