The start of Joseph Serpa’s overage season, with the Kitchener Rangers, was supposed to be different.
The Kitchener Rangers forward was coming off a playoff surge, last year, when he was playing his best hockey, earning 15 points in 12 games.
Then, he spent time at the Chicago Blackhawks’ rookie camp. An opportunity to show the Hawks, and other teams, he’s ready for the next step in his hockey career.
“It's been a little bit of a process trying to get back to, what I felt was, the top of my game in the playoffs last year,” said Serpa. “I had some stuff going on in my personal life, which I was kind of battling through.”
After Serpa returned to the Blueshirts his best friend, and Captain of the Ayr Centennials, Eli Palfreyman passed away during a Jr. B tournament in North Dumfries.
So, you can understand why Serpa, who had the highest point total of any returning Ranger, had just one point in his first five games.
No time like the present to start. He notched a goal, and three assists Tuesday, and the Rangers routed the Owen Sound Attack 7-1.
“It speaks volume of him as a person,” said Kitchener head coach Chris Dennis about Serpa’s perseverance. “He’s a big part of our team, and our leadership group, and a big reason why the whole group is playing the way they are. So happy for him, and happy for what he's doing for our team.”
Palfreyman would have been the first one to text his best friend, after a four-point night.
“Every day, I’ve just been sticking to the process (…) and I think a game like this was just a result of the stuff I've been doing,” said Serpa. “I think I'm pretty tough mentally. But it's something that even if you don't know it's affecting you, it is.”
Serpa has spoken with sports psychologists. He’s talked with grief counsellors. He has support from his family, and girlfriend. And, of course, he has his teammates.
“I think the main thing is just having a good support group,” said Serpa. “Surround yourself with good people, and people that have your best interest in mind. Just do your best everyday.”
He certainly did his best in Tuesday's win.
“I've got to a point where I realize he would’ve wanted the best for me, especially in hockey. So, coming here and doing well is kind of my main priority and kind of living through him at the rink is all I can really do, right?”
The Rangers are back in action Friday, at home to Mississauga. CityNews 570 will have the pre-game show beginning at 7 p.m.