Toronto Lakeshore Patriots forward Kevin Shier had a scheduled visit to Union College on Dec. 9.
When Shier and his father left their Toronto home the day before, they had no idea they would play a role in a dramatic rescue.
Shier was one of five people who helped pulled New York State National Guardsman Timothy Neild from his burning pickup truck after it struck a concrete barrier on the New York State Thruway in DeWitt.
Last Thursday, Shier announced he committed to the Dutchmen for next season.
The 20-year-old Shier, who leads the Ontario Junior Hockey League team in scoring with 20 goals and 28 assists in 38 games, and his father had stopped in Syracuse the night of Dec. 8 to get some sleep before heading to Union.
Shortly after getting on the Thruway, they came upon the scene of the pickup truck on fire.
“We slowed down, and we made the decision to jump out of the car to see what was going on,” Shier said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “We were the third or fourth car on the scene. The accident may have happened a minute before we got there.
“We helped out, and there were a lot of people screaming. They were trying to get the door pried open on the truck because the truck hit the abutment of the bridge, and it caved itself in at the front seat. [Neild] was pinned under the [steering] wheel.”
The rescuers were able to get the door open.
“Myself and another man grabbed Capt. Neild,” Shier said. “The other man cut the seat belt, and we pulled him out.”
Shortly after Neild was pulled out, the truck exploded.
“Looking back, it was a pretty close call,” Shier said. “It didn’t seem like it at that time. It was pretty surreal. It still is pretty surreal. It kind of feels like a dream to me. Thinking back and thinking logically about it, it was pretty dangerous.”
Shier doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“I just tried to do the right thing, and I think a lot of people would have done the same thing,” Shier said. “I’m really glad he’s OK. I thought it was a miracle. When we pulled him out, he was unconscious and he had two broken legs. I thought he was dead at that point. It wasn’t until after we got back to the hotel that we figured out he was alive and in the hospital. I was under the impression, and so was my dad, that he was gone when we pulled him out. It freaked me out.”
Toronto coach Jason Fortier is proud of Shier.
“You don’t expect that from anybody, especially at his age,” Fortier said. “But if you would have asked me would you expect a kid like that come and, basically, do something, I would have said that is a kid I would have expected to make the right decision. He’s a leader on this team for a reason. The boys looked up to him ever since day one.”
Shier is happy to have committed to Union.
“As soon as I got down there, I really fell in love with the school,” Shier said. “A small school is what I wanted. They have a great program. Meeting with [assistant] coach [Joe] Dumais, [assistant] coach [Jason] Tapp and [head] coach [Rick] Bennett, I thought it was the right fit. I wanted to work really hard when I got back to Toronto and make it really hard for them to say no.”
Fortier believes the Dutchmen fans will be happy to watch Shier play. He compared Shier to Dutchmen junior left winger Daniel Ciampini, who played in the OJHL with the St. Michael’s Buzzers.
“Kevin’s the type of kid that’s going to give you a lot of effort,” Fortier said. “He’s a high-skilled kid, excellent shot, has good speed and one of the guys who’s pretty low maintenance.”
RPI ON ROAD
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will try to snap a four-game winless streak tonight when it returns to ECAC Hockey play at Princeton at 7.
The Engineers (3-3-3 ECACH, 8-8-4 overall) are coming off a pair of 6-2 losses in last weekend’s Mar-iucci Classic in Minnesota. They lost to second-ranked Ferris State in the first round, and top-ranked Minnesota in the third-place game.
RPI’s last win came against the Tigers (2-8, 3-14). Brock Higgs scored twice, and Matt Neal had a goal and two assists in leading the Engineers to a 5-2 victory Dec. 7 at Houston Field House.
The Engineers face Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Jerry Knightley will be the seventh inductee into the RPI Hockey Ring of Honor, the school announced Thursday. The ceremony will take place Feb. 7.
Knightley, who graduated in 1965, collected 187 points in three seasons. He led the nation in scoring in the 1963-64 season with 75 points on 33 goals and 42 assists in 26 games. Knightley helped the Engineers reach the Frozen Four that season.
“I am very honored to join such an impressive group of inductees,” Knightley said in a statement. “I was so fortunate to have played with a really good group of guys, many of whom I am still very close to, and because I was a student-athlete at RPI, there were many opportunities presented to me upon graduation.”
Also, the 1963-64 team will be honored for the 50th anniversary of their Frozen Four appearance. RPI lost to Denver, 4-1, in the semifinals, and beat Providence, 2-1, in the consolation game. Michigan won the NCAA title.
The other members of the RPI Hockey Ring of Honor are Adam Oates, Joe Juneau, Frank Chiarelli, Bob Brinkworth, Garry Kearns and Ned Harkness.
It’s a big weekend for college hockey games on TV this weekend.
The highlight will be Saturday night, when ECACH rivals Harvard and Yale meet at Madison Square Garden. NBCSN will televise the game at 8.
There are five games on tonight, with two networks carrying double-header action. CBSSN will have Air Force at Army at 6, and Colorado College at North Dakota at 8:30. Big Ten Network has Michigan State at Ohio State at 6:30, and Michigan at Wisconsin at 9.
The other game tonight is Alabama-Huntsville at Notre Dame on NBCSN at 7:30.
Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 50/323 will have the second game of the Air Force-Army series at 7 p.m. Saturday. Also Saturday, BTN will have a women’s hockey game between Ohio State and Minnesota at 7 p.m.
Brown sophomore defenseman Hunter Davis (Clifton Park) had an assist in the Bears’ 3-2 loss to Colgate last Saturday.