SCHENECTADY — When everybody was looking down, Jack Adams was looking up.
Messa Rink’s snazzy new videoboard was on in all its glory at Union College Saturday night, and one of the first images was of the late Mark Adams Jr., who died at the age of 27 three weeks ago.
So two lines of hockey players had heads bowed for the national anthem, but Jack Adams looked up at his brother during a moment of silence, then had the game of his life.
The Union sophomore forward set up the first goal of the game and scored the third himself as the Dutchmen rolled to a 4-1 win over Army in their season opener.
Adams had left the team for a week after his brother, who won a national championship with Providence College as a senior in 2015, died on Sept. 18, but eventually returned to practice and was a force for the Dutchmen Saturday.
After he scored to make it 3-0 at 5:49 of the second period, he went through the high-five line at the bench, then skated all the way to the other end to give goalie Jake Kupsky a bear hug, his eyes squeezed shut.
After the game, Army coach Brian Riley called Adams over for separate hugs and condolences after the traditional handshake line between the teams at center ice.
“It was nice. I was just happy to see him watching over me, but he’s always here,” Adams said. “But you also have a hockey game, so you’ve got to get ready to play.”
Emotional Jack Adams after @Unionmhockey‘s 4-1 win over Army pic.twitter.com/SR4p7IqS9z
— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) October 7, 2018
Union head coach Rick Bennett said that he’d never rooted harder for one of his players to have a good game than he did for Adams. The team traveled to the Boston area for a celebration of life ceremony in honor of Mark Adams Jr., at which Jack spoke about his brother.
On Saturday, they rallied around Jack Adams on the ice.
“We’ve been talking right along. It’s a learning process,” Bennett said. “If somebody can show me the handbook for how to handle a family tragedy, I’d like to see it. I know what Jack and his family are going through, and there really aren’t words for it.
“All of us, as a staff, were pulling for him. But we didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on him.”
Senior defenseman Greg Campbell got the scoring started at 17:37 of the first period on a slap shot from the left point after Adams shoveled it back to him off a faceoff win.
“I came on the ice on a change. There was a faceoff, I kind of looked at Jack and he kind of gave me a nod, like he was going to give me the puck when we win this draw,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t the hardest shot, but it found its way in.”
Captain Cole Maier made it 2-0 at 2:06 of the second, the first of his two goals on the night.
Great transition in neutral ice and what a finish by 15?! ?’s on that goal go to 9? and 28?♂️ pic.twitter.com/5BDBUTMZWx
— Union Hockey (@Unionmhockey) October 7, 2018
Adams scored with help from his two new freshman linemates, Blake Hayward and Sam Morton.
Morton absorbed a hit at the left point to shovel it over to Hayward, who found Adams barreling down the middle of the ice unguarded for a wrist shot past goalie Jared Dempsey to make it 3-0 at 5:49 of the second period.
“You could see Jack, right from the first shift, he kept it simple, put it on net, and his linemates were rolling, too,” Bennett said.
Adams was one of the last Dutchmen in the handshake line after the game.
Most of the Union team was headed into the locker room, but the entire Cadets lineup lingered behind to say a few extra words to Adams, after Riley called him over.
We lost a game tonight but this young man lost his brother a few weeks ago. We wanted him to know that we were thinking of him and his family. https://t.co/clwIEcecfe
— Brian Riley (@Coach_BRiley) October 7, 2018
“What people don’t realize is one of our players, Derek Hines, was killed in action; Jack’s dad stepped up in a huge way for the Hines family,” Riley said. “Derek was killed in 2005, in Afghanistan. Mr. Adams is good friends with the Hines family. I saw it first-hand how he rallied around the Hineses, so when this happened, I told our guys before the game that, we talk about family all the time, and as far as I’m concerned, the Adams family is part of the Army hockey family.
“I told them, ‘We lost a hockey game, but he lost a brother.’ So that was a life lesson that I thought was an opportunity for our guys to learn something.”
“Coach Riley has been a family friend for us for awhile, and that’s a really classy program,” Jack Adams said. “It was a little emotional for me. I’m an emotional guy, I guess.”
“That’s a classy coach, a classy team, and you want to shake those guys’ hands, as well, and say thank you for what you’re doing now and what you’re going to do,” Bennett said.
Senior center Brett Supinski was not in uniform for the game.
Bennett said he is injured, but hopefully will be available for next weekend’s home games against Omaha.
Sophomore Parker Foo was also not in the lineup, because of illness, Bennett said.
Army 0 1 0 — 1
Union 1 3 0 — 4
First Period — 1, Union, Campbell 1 (Adams, Morton), . Penalties — Evancho, Army (interference), 7:57; Mansfield, Army (holding), 13:49; Franco, Arrmy (tripping), 18:03.
Second period — 2, Union, Maier 1 (Brierley, Ryan), 2:06. 3, Union, Adams 1 (Hayward, Morton), 5:49. 4, Army, MacAfee 1 (Evancho, Maruya), 6:42. 5, Union, Maier 2 (Walker, Morgan), 17:22. Penalties — Emelifeonwu, Union (elbowing), 6:00; Campolieto, Union (interference), 8:43; DeYoung, Army (roughing), 11:36; Adams, Union (high sticking), 14:44; Franco, Army (charging, major-game misconduct), 18:38.
Third period — None. Penalties — Breault, Union (hooking), 3:14; Morgan, Union (checking), 17:05.
Shots on goal — Army 4-14-7 — 25. Union 9-13-8 — 30.
Power-play opportunities — Army 1 of 5. Union 0 of 5.
Goaltenders — Army, Dempsey 0-1-0 (30 shots-26 saves). Union, Kupsky 1-0-0 (25-24).
T — 2:16. A — 1,978.
Referees — CJ Hanafin, Cameron Lynch. Linesmen — Dmitry Antipin, Stephen Drain.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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