Zach Bogosian, alternate captain for the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Atlanta Thrashers, skates up the ice, fakes left and prepares to snipe a shot into the top right corner of the goal. Michael Ouimet lunges and stretches out his arms; his stick just barely makes contact with the puck, enough to slightly alter its direction. The puck hits off the post and careens down the ice.
Ouimet, defenseman and assistant captain for the SUNY New Paltz Ice Hawks, has just successfully defended an NHL superstar.
This, of course, is no NHL matchup. It is the annual Massena Memorial Hospital Fundraiser game, played in Massena, about as far upstate New York as you can get.
A month later, Ouimet still holds the bragging rights earned from halting Bogosian.
“I won’t lie, it was awesome,” Ouimet says, “but I’m obviously not trying to be better than him,” he continues, laughing. “He is a monster in the NHL and I’m just a defenseman for a college club hockey team.”
Turns out this is not the first matchup between the two; both were born in Massena and grew up playing hockey together. Bogosian however, developed to be a bigger, stronger hockey player.
Ouimet’s cousin, Jim DeMaio, 32, lives in New Paltz, but traveled to watch Ouimet face off against the NHL all-star. “He is really good,” DeMaio says, “but Bogosian is fifty times better. Still, he [Ouimet] really played like a man out there.”
Demaio, just like Ouimet, is an avid hockey fan. He still plays in competitive leagues, and refuses to admit that Ouimet’s youth gives him an advantage. “Put me in there against him [Bogosian] and he scores two, three goals at most.”
Ouimet disagrees: “Jim is the man but he’s getting too old. I’m better than him, and Bogosian is much better than me.”
All joking aside, DeMaio concedes that Ouimet’s performance was Massena lore-worthy. “That is a small town man. Those are two of the best hockey players to come out of there. He played like a champion, and competed with one of the best players in the game. There’s not much else you can say.”
Ouimet still takes any opportunity to play hockey competitively, despite acknowledging that he is nowhere near the NHL standard. “I know that I’m just too small to play on that level,” he says. And even though the two don’t battle nearly as often as they used to, Ouimet savors every chance. “It makes me feel like I can compete somewhat with these professional hockey players,” he says.
Ouimet, a fourth-year student here at New Paltz, was a Resident Assistant (RA) for two years and plans to be an elementary school teacher. While it may not be the glamorous lifestyle that Bogosian has, Ouimet takes solace in looking forward to more meetings on the rink.
Ouimet is understandably humble about his date with glory. While he did stop Bogosian from scoring that one goal, Bogosian’s team went on to win the fundraiser game, with Bogosian netting a double hat trick, which constitutes six goals. “I was on the ice for all of them,” Ouimet says, “and he schooled me pretty hard. My claim to fame is that because of me he was an inch away from number seven.”