The headaches had subsided, as did every other concussion-like symptom Mason Van Tuyl had been experiencing.
Stuck in the stands much of his junior hockey season, the Rebels captain was forced to watch much of the 2012-13 year unfold without touching the rink.
But as the frustration mounted, so did his passion play, which was finally rewarded with three games remaining in the regular season.
In the last one, his impact was officially felt.
Van Tuyl put together a third period performance to remember, as the Rebels rallied three times to fend off Anoka for a 4-3 overtime victory on senior night at the Champlin Ice Forum Feb. 16.
Trailing 2-1 midway through the period, Van Tuyl set up Brock Puchalski’s game-tying goal. Then, with the Rebels down 3-2, he banged in a game-tying goal of his own off the post to force overtime.
He frosted the cake in OT, picking the top-corner 4 minutes, 15 seconds into the extra session to send the Rebel seniors home with a win on their final game in the building.
“I wanted to do it for the seniors,” said Van Tuyl. “That third period was their last 17 minutes on this ice. I really wanted it for them.”
No doubt it meant plenty to him as well.
The three points Van Tuyl recorded in the third period and overtime represented the extent of his point production this winter.
That wasn’t supposed to be how it worked out for the player the coaches named team captain long before the season started. But he got dinged in preseason football practice, and was never able to play even a down for the Rebels this past fall.
Once hockey started, the wait to play continued.
“It was hard on him,” said Champlin Park assistant coach Bryce Macken. “As a coach, we just made sure we were talking to him all the time, making sure that he was involved. He was the first guy named captain this year, and then to have him play such a little role on the ice for the whole year was real tough for him. But games like today really did solidify how much we did miss him this year. He’s a great high school hockey player. We’re happy to have him back.”
The timing couldn’t have been better.
The high school hockey playoffs begin this week, and after the victory over Anoka last Saturday, the Rebels were are locked in as the No. 4 seed in the Section 5AA playoffs. Anoka was seeded No. 5.
That will have the two teams meeting again Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Coon Rapids Ice Arena, just seven days after last Saturday’s overtime thriller in Champlin.
“That is what made this game so important,” said Van Tuyl. “Technically it didn’t mean much, but we wanted to set a tone for next Saturday, and we did it.”
The quarterfinal face off is at 2 p.m. on Feb. 23 with the victor advancing to the semifinals Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Coliseum in St. Paul against the winner of the No. 1 Blaine vs. No. 8 Osseo quarterfinal. Also in the quarterfinals are No. 3 Maple Grove versus No. 6 Irondale and No. 2 Centennial versus No. 7 Coon Rapids. Both of those games will be played in succession beginning at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Champlin Ice Forum.
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]