The Benilde-St. Margarets Red Knights had all the inspiration they needed in the form of Jack Jablonski.
The club won the Minnesota State High School Class AA Hockey Championship last night, beating the Hill-Murray Pioneers 5-1 in St. Paul, MN.
Their victory is now something of lore, a memory forever etched not only into the annals of Minnesota High School Hockey history, but into memories of the players, coaches, classmates and everyone who watched or attended the event.
On December 30th, Jablonski of Benilde went head first into the boards in a Junior Varsity game against Wayzata High School.
Although the circumstances were purely a freak accident, Jablonski suffered a severed spinal cord, putting him into the hospital for a battery of surgeries and the ultimate prognosis that he’ll never be able to walk again, much less strap on a pair of skates.
His story led to an outpouring of support locally and nationally. As the tight-knit hockey community stepped forth to help provide donations, support, and awareness for his situation and the dangers of reckless play along the boards. The Minnesota State High School League enacted harsher penalties for hits to the head or reckless plays like checking from behind.
His teammates, renewed their focus after the accident, and vowed to win it all for “Jabs.”
With large circular patches with Jablonski’s name and number (#13) sewed onto the crest of their sweaters, The Red Knights proceeded to finish the year on an amazing 18-3-0 run. As his condition stabilized and began to improve, Jablonski, along with teammates, friends, and family were able to not only make it out to their home rink watch his team win their first Section game, but go into the locker room and be apart of his team again.
One of the driving forces behind BSM’s magical run was Forward Grant Besse, who has been ranked in Future Considerations’ Top 120 all season.
The University of Wisconsin recruit simply dominated all year, but turned his game up another level in post season play; the five-foot-10, 175-pound Besse had an amazing 13 goals and 18 points in 6 Section and State Tournament games. His magnum opus, in what could be the greatest State Tournament performance of all time, was scoring every single BSM goal in last night’s Championship Game.
Of the five total goals, amazingly three of those were shorthanded. In it could have been more; buzzing the net all the night with increasing confidence, he was flat out stoned by Hill-Murray goaltender John Dugas four or five more times.
“I really didn’t know what to do…I had to check back into reality and take in everything” said Besse of his five goal outburst.
It’s a fitting end for Grant Besse, who has scored an unbelievable 70 goals and 61 assists in 58 games this year, from the start of the Upper Midwest Elite League, the Bauer National Invitation Tournament in November, and the now completed High School Hockey season.
His talent has been on display all season, and to turn it up another level on Minnesota’s biggest stage will surely impress the National Hockey League scouts who were in attendance. No word of where he’ll play next year has been reported yet- Muskegon of the USHL holds his rights, but it a memorable performance at the State Championship and The Title seems like a fitting end to his High School career.
The Championship is also a storybook end to Benilde’s season; tragedy became elation, as the clock struck 00:00. The Red Knights spilled onto the ice and down toward the student section, where they all pointed up at the suite where Jablonski, who despite fighting illness and nausea, was determined to take in his team’s games.
He was rewarded with watching his Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights teammates win the State title for him.