Parker Gahagen takes the long journey to West Point
BY: Matthew Ondesko, Community Papers of WNY Editor | November 12, 2013
WEST POINT, NY – Five years ago, Army goaltender Parker Gahagen didn’t know what his future was going to hold.
He was playing in the Western New York Varsity Federation Hockey championship game at Buffalo State College when his skate got stuck in the ice and he dislocated his kneecap.
While he laid on the ice, in a lot of pain, he made the decision right there and then that he wasn’t going to let this injury derail all the hard work he had put up to that point.
“Right after the injury, I remember saying to myself that everyday isn’t a guarantee,” said Gahagen, from West Point. “Just try and make the most of every practice, every situation.”
After some intense rehab, Gahagen returned for his junior and senior seasons at Williamsville North High School – winning the Federation title at First Niagara Center his senior year.
With nothing left to prove at the high school level, the Williamsville native set his sites on college.
But, before college, he wanted to prove himself at a higher level. So, Gahagen took his talents to the Buffalo Junior Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
With Gahagen between the pipes, the Junior Sabres played some of its best hockey in years. Last year, Gahagen helped lead the Junior Sabres to the playoffs, and to one of the best records in the league.
“The Junior Sabres program is excelling right now,” said Gahagen.
Colleges took notice and Gahagen was highly recruited. Schools like Union College and West Point came calling for his talents.
Just like the early part of his career at Williamsville North, the recruiting process took a few turns.
Gahagen liked Union College, but there was something about Brian Riley and the Army program.
Maybe it was the wonderful view and campus on the banks of the Hudson at West Point. Or maybe it was a calling, a calling to do something much greater than any normal college student.
Whatever the decision, Gahagen knew he could rely on his faith to get him through the tough choice.
“I just trusted God,” said Gahagen. “I know this is where he wants me to be. Whatever comes of it, will just be part of his plan. He knows what’s best and I am not going to argue with him.”
In choosing West Point, Gahagen now becomes a part of the Long Gray Line. A brotherhood. It is a choice that wasn’t easy on his family or girlfriend. But, one they knew and understood.
“My mom and my girlfriend had a hard time getting behind it,” stated Gahagen. “For me, I just felt like this is where I am supposed to be.”
Since coming to West Point, Gahagen as been through a lot – and that’s only in a couple of months.
He has gone through Beast - which is an intense six weeks of military training. There they weed out some of those who might not be able to make it. Cadets who do make it through Beast will start their journey to becoming an officer in the United States Army.
“Beast was an interesting time,” said Gahagen. “You just start to miss everyone, everything. Beast got better, we were able do some cool stuff. It was definitely an eye opener.”
There is that word again, journey. It will be a long journey for Gahagen. After four years of education, he will then enlist for a five-year military commitment – all the while playing hockey for the Black Knights.
“Some days are tough, but that is part of the experience. I made the decision, so it’s kind of my own fault anyway,” Gahagen said laughing. “To be able to go here and come to West Point is an awesome opportunity.”
After not seeing action in the first four games of the season, Gahagen finally saw action in Army’s 4-1 loss to Holy Cross on Friday, Nov. 9. He replaced junior goaltender Rob Tadazak, who allowed four goals in an eight-minute span of the second period.
Gahagen acquitted himself well as he did not allow a goal in the final period and a half of play. Because of coming in midway through a game, Gahagen didn’t have a chance to be nervous. He just went out there and played his game, like he normally does. He made sure he had a little fun out there as well.
“There is definitely jitters that you want to have, but I try and keep telling myself that I got here on the talent that I have been blessed with,” said Gahagen. “I just kind of relied on my faith and talent that I was blessed with, and tried to have fun.”
Parker Gahagen has just started the journey to becoming whatever he wants to be. He knows over the next four years that West Point will test him in ways he has never been tested before.
Gahagen also knows he can handle what is put in front of him.
After all he chose the journey of West Point.