In an overtime win against Dennis-Yarmouth, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School goalie Graham Stearns can be seen skating the length of the ice to console the Dolphins goalie, who is on one knee after giving up the game-winning score.
Graham bends down, takes a minute to say something, and then taps the goalie on the helmet before joining his teammates in the wild celebration of Frankie Paciello’s game-winning goal.
It’s a moment that epitomizes Graham and this year’s Vineyarder team.
Along with earning the MVP for the Cape & Islands Lighthouse division, Graham was awarded the individual sportsmanship award. The senior captain’s leadership trickled down to the whole squad, which earned the team sportsmanship award.
Though the season didn’t end the way the MVRHS boys hockey team would have liked it — a 2-1 loss in overtime to rival Nantucket — Coach Matt Mincone is proud that his team and Graham were recognized for their sportsmanship. “I like that,” he said, noting that the team is representing the name on the front of their jerseys.
Mincone shared a video that shows the Vineyard team celebrating in the corner and Graham consoling the D-Y goalie. Mincone said he didn’t see what Graham did at that moment, but received a message from the D-Y goalie’s mother pointing out the thoughtful gesture.
“I asked Graham why he did that, and he said, ‘Because I’ve been there before,’” Coach Mincone said. “You can’t teach that stuff. Doing something like that just brings it to a different level.”
Mincone said Graham even got a vote for sportsmanship from a nonleague opponent. Nauset Regional High School voted for him (it didn’t count, but he didn’t need it) for his role in supporting that team’s desire to recognize a coach who had been terminated before the game.
“He called me and asked me about it,” Coach Mincone said of Graham. “He told me, ‘I’m in favor of this, but I want to know your opinion on it.’” Mincone appreciated that and agreed to let his players participate as long as it was in the spirit of a peaceful resolution for everyone involved.
“He has a very mature respect for situations,” Coach Mincone said of Graham. “He’s still a kid, don’t get me wrong, but he’s a man when it comes to those situations.”
Coach Mincone talked about Graham’s maturity and growth. “He’s always been a good sportsman, a good teammate,” he said. “He’s always been the kind of player who respects the game, respects his position, respects his teammates, and respects his opponents.”
There’s a reason Graham was league MVP. “Everyone thought he was the difference for us going 7-1,” Coach Mincone said. “He just had a special year. He became captain and grew up. He checked in every day. There was a filter between me and the team. There’s a lot less work when you have a captain like that.”
Graham wasn’t the only one to be recognized by the league. Being the league champs, MVRHS had the most all-stars selected. Senior Will Bruguiere, senior Jake Scott, senior Finn Lewis, senior Charlie Lakis, and junior Nick BenDavid were selected as all-stars. Junior Nick Rego was selected as an honorable mention.