Jan. 5, 2012
By Matthew Ondesko, MetroWNY.com
"Our team has gotten into giving back and making a difference," - Cheyna Rocha.
In this day and age, it seems all you hear about is the negative in sports. Whether it be scandals that are going on at Penn State or rule breaking at Ohio State, it seems whenever you turn on the television or go on the internet the stories are always about what's bad in college athletics.
At West Point it is about what's good with the student-athletes.
Rocha and several members of the Army Black Knights hockey team came up with an idea to raise awareness for cancer.
The idea first started with a pink the rink event, then moved to a charity game before being settled on The House of Blues Friday night when they host Canisius College at 7:05 p.m. in Atlantic Hockey action.
"My dad is a prostate cancer survivor," stated Rocha recently by phone from West Point. "As a collective group, giving back is something that we want to do."
The first 2,000 fans through the turnstiles will be presented with bracelets with the first 1,000 fans being given blue T-shirts.
The Black Knights will don special blue jerseys for the contest as well. Also, Army hockey players helped organize the event and have utilized social media to boost attendance.
In addition to the jerseys, T-shirts and bracelets and literature will be available in the Tate Rink lobby to educate.
"This is all the players doing," stated Army coach Brian Riley. "If we can help educate one person - it's a huge success. Everybody knows somebody that has been affected by cancer."
This isn't the first event the Army hockey team has gotten behind. They do a number of things in the community including giving up a Sunday to help the little ones at the rink or hosting a skate with the team, like they are doing after Saturday night's game.
Another big community event is the Neighborhood Knights, which was started by Kyle Maggard.
"I am very proud of our players," said Riley. "The players decided they wanted to be more involved and have done all of this work on their own. Being a West Point cadet or a Division I hockey player is hard enough on its own, yet these guys are finding time to make a difference in their community and that says a lot about their character."
But this night belongs to raising awareness for prostate cancer and the effects it can have.
"We hope to have a very positive effect on raising awareness," said Rocha. "We never have seen a game for prostate cancer at the college level."
The team, along with Riley, hopes this will become an annual event.
"They are a very special group," said Riley. "We hope to try and make this a yearly thing."
As for the game, both team come limping into to the contest as Army sits 2-9-6, 1-7-4 in league play, while the Canisius Golden Griffins come in at 4-11-3, 4-5-2.
The problem for both teams is the lack of scoring.
"The start wasn't what we were looking for," stated Riley. "We are trying to figure out how to create some offense."
This is an important stretch for the Black Knight as they take on Canisius for two before heading to Western New York to take on Niagara University.
Even though they have struggled in the first half, Riley knows these last two months will show where this team really is come playoff time.
"Seems like the second half every weekend has a playoff feel to it," said Riley. "This is two teams that don't score a lot."