Keller's state championship in hockey has been overshadowed by an ugly incident which occurred near the end of the team's 9-3 victory over Arlington Martin on Sunday.
One of the coaches calls it "inexcusable and disgusting." The video, which had been posted on YouTube, has now been "removed by the user." The clip showed that the player who ends up being injured is the same player who launched himself at a defenseless opponent.
During a skirmish near the end of the game, Arlington Martin's Jeff SoRelle left his bench and skated toward the fray. Skating at full speed, SoRelle launched himself into Keller's Travis Hall, who was standing along the boards watching the fight but staying out of it. Fortunately, SoRelle did not hit Hall squarely. When SoRelle bounced off the boards, he squared off with a Keller player. That's when another Keller player, Braxton Mills, came flying in and sucker punched SoRelle, sending him to the ice. SoRelle suffered a broken jaw and a concussion.
Mills had been sent off the ice earlier and was watching from the viewing area, where the fans are. When he saw SoRelle skate into the fray and blindside Hall, Mills came back onto the ice and retaliated.
Keith Andresen is Dr Pepper StarCenters Senior Director of Hockey Programs and also the high school section president of the Texas Amateur Hockey Association. Andresen pointed out that Mills had not been ejected from the game -- he had been penalized, and the time on his penalty was longer than the amount of time left in the game. As is customary in hockey, when this happens, the player leaves the ice and goes to the locker room. But Andresen said that in the eyes of TAHA, there is no difference between coming from the bench to join a fight, or coming from off the ice in this situation. They are equally bad.
Both Mills and SoRelle are seniors, and Martin's coach Louie Greco said that any suspension that would have been levied onto the players will go to the coaches, since the players won't be back next year. Greco said there will be a hearing in April to determine the punishments.
Fighting is rare in high school hockey. If a player fights, the league suspends him for three games. Keller coach Knute Anderson adds to that -- he said that if one of his players gets in a fight, Anderson will kick him off the team until he reviews the situation. Because he takes a hard-line approach to fighting, Anderson says he's never had a kid fight during a game in six years of coaching high school hockey.
Other info to keep in mind when forming your opinion on this story: In a league of 22 teams, Arlington Martin was the most penalized team; Keller ended the regular season with the third-fewest penalties. Jeff SoRelle had a total of four penalty minutes in 21 regular season games. Braxton Mills had six. Obviously, neither had a history of being a dirty player.
As Keller's coach Anderson said, this is not a case of good guys versus bad guys. "It was a stupid act by a couple of kids, and unfortunately one kid got hurt really bad."
Greco has been texting with SoRelle, and says the player will get his jaw wired shut Thursday, but is otherwise OK.