Adapted floor hockey takes the home court


Nicole Skalicky

Junior Melinda Abernathy practices her shot

Nicole Skalicky, Writer

The first game of the 2019 season is just around the corner for the OHS Adapted Floor Hockey (AFH) team, and they are making large steps to start it off right. In the past, AFH has always had great success by the end of their season. In the last five years, the team has made four appearances in the state tournament. The team’s 2019 goal is to make a comeback. Senior Harrison Utoft is in his second year of playing. Utoft said, “Our goal is to not only get to state, but win it.” While they have come close before, the team is yet to win the title, and they are confident with their chances this year.

Adapted Floor Hockey gives OHS students with cognitive impairment an after-school activity, and this gives them an opportunity to be with their friends, make new ones and have some fun. It is obvious how much this sport means to them. The memories and relationships these students make last a lifetime. Junior Melinda Abernathy still remembers her first goal and how excited she was. Abernathy said, “When I made my first goal, the ref came up to me and asked, ‘Is that your first goal?’ and gave me the game puck to keep.”

For all of those other athletes, I love going to your games, and it would mean a lot if you would come to our games.

— Harrison Utoft

The new season not only brought new-found confidence but also a new opportunity for the team. Normally, AFH plays their home games at the Owatonna Middle School, but after years of conversation, the team will get the opportunity to play at OHS for one game. This is a big change for the team. At the middle school, there is limited room for fans; at OHS, all of the bleachers will be packed. This way, a greater number of fans can attend the game and show their support. OHS Pep Band and Cheerleaders will also have room to support the team for the first time. This game and atmosphere mean a lot to the players and coaches. AFH head coach, John Scheil, has been coaching the team for four years. Scheil said, “It is a pretty big opportunity for more people to come and cheer us on. It will be a big and cool event to bring everyone together.” This event will be the last home game of the season and will take place on Monday, Feb. 25 at 4:30 p.m. in the OHS gymnasium.

The fan support for this game is being greatly anticipated. While the team never seems to have a problem filling the smaller bleachers at the middle school, the OHS bleachers will accommodate many more people. Activities Director Marc Achterkirch said, “One of our main goals is for more of our student body to see how competitive our floor hockey team is.” The majority of the attending fans at normal games tend to be family members of the players. A large number of students rarely show up. The players would love to see an increase of student fans at their games. Utoft said, “For all of those other athletes, I love going to your games, and it would mean a lot if you would come to our games.”

There are plenty more opportunities that the coaches and players have to look forward to. Since the team graduated many seniors last year, the other players have the chance to step into a new leadership position. Coach Scheil said, “What makes this year’s team special is that we have new leaders. Our old leaders all graduated, so we have the opportunity for some new kids to step into that new leadership role.” There are only two seniors on the team this year, Samantha Roberts and Harrison Utoft, so the door is wide open for whoever feels they can fill the role. Out of all 12 players on the roster, every one of them has a unique talent to contribute to the team.

This season, the adapted floor hockey team will be playing nine different games over the span of a month. Five of those games will be home, and the team would really love all the fan engagement they can get. The first home game is Thursday, Jan. 31 at 4:30 p.m. vs. Stillwater at OMS. Big has the team’s schedule ending with the OHS Gym game on Feb. 25.