Beyond Hockey: Hayes triumphs over tragedy
February 1, 2015
By Scott Leffler, East Niagara Post
Not to discount the rest of the team, but Dillon Hayes won Saturday's Lockport Express game.
Yes, there were 66 shots on goal by the Express — the vast majority of them not by Dillon Hayes. The Express goaltender made 36 saves on 38 shots, too. But to the hundreds of fans watching tonight at Cornerstone Arena, there was only one person playing hockey — Dillon Hayes.
The 20-year-old's father, Tim Hayes, died suddenly this morning.
Dillon said that his father had told him last night that he was looking forward to watching him play tonight. He said that his dad might not have been in the stands, but he knew he was watching. And he wanted to make him proud. So when Express Coach Frank Vecchio offered to let Hayes sit the game out and grieve, Hayes politely declined.
Hayes told Vecchio that he wanted to play. The coach not only let him, he let him pick the starting lineup. Hayes chose Alex Bottenfield, Justin Durkee, Anthony Merante and Ryan Logar to play beside him. He said they were his best friends on the team, calling them his "brothers."
The NA3EHL defensive player of the week, Tyler Shotwell, started in goal.
Hayes scored the first goal of the game 5:14 into the first period, assisted by his friend Logar. He scored the last goal in regulation with just 47 seconds to go, tying the game and sending it in to overtime. And after a scoreless overtime period, he scored the only goal in the shootout.
He singlehandedly scored more goals than the Royals, who got a pair from Wesley Austin at 17:58 of the first period and John Papas at 1:26 of the second.
Roc City and Lockport have developed a fairly physical rivalry this season. But the Royals showed their own support, many of the players talking with Hayes during the game, expressing their sorrow for his loss — and all of them congratulating him afterwards.