SHERIDAN — Jack Chase knew it right away. He had felt the pain before, and all he could think about was hockey, and how the opportunity to continue playing evaporated in one split second.
During a game against Jackson in late December, the Sheridan Hawks’ captain handled the puck, sending it up the boards before a defender blindsided him. The contact jarred Chase’s shoulder loose, and a senior that had played hockey for most of his life had the sport ripped away from him unceremoniously.
“I guess that’s life,” Chase said. “You deal with the adversity and overcome it, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Chase’s shoulder dislocated out the back, which tore his labrum — similar to an injury he sustained during his sophomore year of hockey. This time around, Chase also tore his hagl — humeral avulsion of the glenohumeral ligament — and that rare ailment needed special attention.
He traveled to Denver for surgery and now dons a brace for six weeks prior to tacking 10-15 weeks of physical therapy. The senior has had to endure and push forward much like his hockey squad.
When Chase sustained the injury, the Hawks boasted an unblemished 10-0 record, as they welcomed fellow unbeaten Jackson to the M&M’s Center. What started as a hotly-contested hockey game — with a packed house on hand — turned into a somber night for Sheridan.
“It was kind of like another loss, if you will, of worse proportion,” Sheridan head coach Kirk Viren said.
“It wasn’t just one game you lost. You lost a guy on the ice. You lost a guy who provided a lot of stability, took a lot of ice time, and was the guy other guys followed.”
Viren has coached Chase for the majority of his career. Viren helped Chase develop tendencies and skills that transferred over to the ice, making him into a first-shift defensive catalyst.
The players gravitated toward Chase not only because of his skill but because of his innate leadership qualities. They named him captain, and when the Hawks’ leader went down it sent a shock wave through the team.
“Everyone knew it was bad because it had happened before,” Sheridan’s Winfield Loomis said. “We figured his hockey career was over. We knew he was not going to come back, so we were all just really quiet about it. We didn’t really know what to do.”
Chase anchored the Hawks’ defense, and with him gone, a gaping hole in the backline needed remedying. Loomis stepped up and has played a more defensive-centric role in the last couple months. Others have chipped in, as well, helping to fill the shoes of a player that Loomis called, “Irreplaceable.”
The Hawks finished the regular season at 14-5-1, capturing the No. 4 seed at the A state tournament, which gets underway Friday in Gillette. The A state tournament features the top six teams from the regular season divided into two pools.
The first pool houses No. 1-seeded Jackson, Sheridan and No. 6-seeded Cheyenne, while the second pool has No. 2-seeded Gillette, No. 3-seeded Casper and No. 5-seeded Laramie. The winner of each respective pool will face off against one another in the title game Sunday.
The Hawks open the tournament against Cheyenne Friday — a team Sheridan is 2-0 against — before battling Jackson Saturday — a team Sheridan is 0-2 against.
Chase will travel with the team to Gillette, and watch as his team chases a state title. He can’t lace up the skates, but Chase will still provide the same leadership and guidance that garnered him captain honors before the year began.