Beyond the Blueline: Eveleth-Gilbert Girls Continue to Battle After Losing Teammate

Eyewitness Sports
Updated: January 09, 2018 10:56 PM

The week before Christmas tragedy struck the Eveleth-Gilbert Area girls hockey team. They lost a teammate and friend in Kirja Kishel who passed away in a snowmobile accident.

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"Shock. I just couldn't believe it. I'm still kind of in shock and it's hard to deal with," said junior Katie Scherf a few week after losing her teammate Kirja Kishel.

"Me and her were very close, so when I heard and found out, I was completely heartbroken," said senior Brenna Ceglar.

"I honestly didn't know if we would rebound," said Eveleth-Gilbert head coach Dean Edstrom. "I had my doubts. This team was pretty torn apart for a week for sure and some of them still are. We're still struggling."

Kirja was a senior at Virginia High School and just one of two seniors with the hockey program. After receiving the heavy news a day after her death, the team held a meeting at the Hippodrome and decided that they needed to play their game the following day.

"Immediately we decided that we wanted to keep her legacy alive with the team. We knew it was the right thing to do," said junior Bekah Davidson.

"I kind of hoped it would be a distraction for a couple of hours and I'm glad we did play," added Edstrom.

Falling 5-2 wasn't the ending they had hoped for, but it helped fuel this team to find a bigger reason to push through.

"Every shift is for her, every goal is for her," said Ceglar.

Since that game, the team has only dropped two games. With eight game remaining in the season, they've already won 7 games this season compared to the two wins they recorded last season.

"We play for her now. When we start our games, it's '3-2-1- Kirja,'" added Davidson.

The team has made it a point to keep Kirja and her spirit alive by wearing stickers with 17 on their helmets and hanging her jersey just above the bench at both home and away games. These gestures have helped the team remember the qualities that Kirja brought to the team.

"Kirja was just go with the flow. She was down for anything, always happy," said Davidson.

"She brought a light-hardheartedness that will never be replaced," added Edstrom.

Kirja has also left her teammates with one of life's most important lessons.

"Hockey is a big part of our lives, but it's not necessarily the sport. It's the relationships you form around the sport and that's what's really important," said Scherf.



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