Patrick Williams, Features Writer

That one was for Julie Roe.

Garrett Roe acknowledged that Monday night was a tough one. His Hershey Bears had just dropped their third consecutive game in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cleveland Monsters, a 3-2 overtime heartbreaker at Giant Center to force a Game 7. What had been a 3-0 series lead now saw the Bears scrambling to fight for their season.

The mood – both collectively and individually – was tense.

But Roe snapped out of that funk quickly.

“I had two kids yelling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!,” Roe smiled, thinking back to Tuesday morning. “It just gives you a gentle reminder of how fragile hockey is, and how much life means to me.”

Last night, Roe had one of the biggest moments of his hockey career when he slipped loose from coverage and flicked a shot past Cleveland goaltender Jet Greaves 7:38 into overtime, giving the Bears a 3-2 win and sending them back to the Calder Cup Finals for a chance to defend last year’s title in a rematch against the Coachella Valley Firebirds. Game 1 is Friday night at Giant Center.

Drafted by Los Angeles in 2008, Roe played four seasons at St. Cloud State University before starting his pro career with the Adirondack Phantoms back in 2011. He moved overseas two years later and started what would become a 10-season European tour through Austria, Germany, Sweden and then Switzerland. It has been a good hockey life, including representing the United States at the 2018 Olympics.

But last summer, Roe’s mom Julie passed away after a fight with cancer. Garrett, a native of Vienna, Va., needed to be closer to home. At 35, he found himself an AHL contract with the Bears, an ideal set-up just two hours from his family circle.

Roe wears number 65 for the Bears, representing Julie’s June 5 birthday. When the Bears hosted their annual Hockey Fights Cancer night in November, he received a standing ovation.

Last night, Roe fought to keep his composure after the game. His father, Larry, had made the trip to Hershey, and the two saw each other immediately afterwards. There was a large contingent of Roes cheering him on. Julie, too, it would seem.

“It was my mom,” Roe said of the goal – as well as his emotions. “I feel like she had a helping hand in this somehow. I saw a cardinal the other day, and I just feel like that was her. My mom would have been thrilled to go through this with us, this whole ride. It’s just cool to share those memories.

“It’s a part of life that’s more than hockey sometimes. Hockey is obviously something, but life is more than that.”

The Bears have needed Roe, a versatile forward who can offer a bit of everything to a lineup. Injuries have piled up as the postseason has moved along. Forward Pierrick Dubé returned to score in Game 7 after losing several teeth and missing three games, but the Bears had to go without forward Ethen Frank, whose nine goals in 12 playoff games rank him second in the AHL. The back end is banged up as well, with Aaron Ness and Lucas Johansen out and Vincent Iorio departing during Game 7.

That’s where exceptional depth has paid off for Hershey. Roe, who didn’t even get into the lineup until Game 4 of the division semifinals against Lehigh Valley, has become a fixture with 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 11 playoff games.

Roe looks at his own wife, Brittany, and sees how much motherhood figures into the life of a pro athlete as they raise their two kids in the unpredictable world of hockey, landing that next contract, and dealing with swings in emotion. And now that he is four wins away from a Calder Cup title, Roe recognizes that the long road is one that Julie helped to send him off on decades ago.

“She’s a mom,” Roe said. “You can’t always describe what they do or how they do it. It’s just Mom’s touch.

“It’s a special touch. It’s sometimes unexplainable.”


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