Each time his team wins, St. Francis Xavier University goalie Chase Marchand raises his stick and looks skyward, a salute to his older brother Cole who died five years ago.
This week, Marchand, 21, led the St. FX men's hockey team to its second Atlantic University Sport championship title and is now chasing a national title to honour his brother.
"It's never easy to lose somebody who's close to you and he led a special life and I want to remember him in the right ways," says Marchand, who is also a cousin to Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand.
"The salute with the stick is just one thing I do with hockey that helps me remember him."
'He was special person'
Chase Marchand, who is from the Halifax bedroom community of Hammonds Plains, was only 16 years old and had just finished playing his last year of midget hockey when his brother died.
Cole Marchand had been battling depression and began experimenting with drugs to cope with his mental illness. The 19-year-old stopped breathing and passed away just days after drinking poppy seed tea, which contained different opiates in various concentrations.
The hockey stick salute, Chase Marchand says, helps him feel the spirit of his brother.
"He was a special person and he deserves to watch, so maybe with us winning he helped me out, maybe a puck hits a post or something," he says.
'I don't know how he did it'
Marchand moved away from home in 2012 to begin his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career just three months after his brother died.
"I don't know how he did it, I know I couldn't do it," says his father Darrell Marchand. "Never once did he complain, never once did he call saying he was missing home. I am very proud of him."
Over the next three seasons Chase Marchand bounced around to several QMJHL teams. He played in Amherst, N.S., Cape Breton, Mississauga, Ont., and Victoriaville, Que., before seeing his junior career finally settle in with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in Quebec.
He had a breakthrough season last year and set a record in the playoffs when he allowed no goals for 223 minutes, a stretch of almost four full games. He went on to lead the Huskies to their first QMJHL title.
At the Memorial Cup championship game last year, they lost the national championship final in overtime to the London Knights.
Now with the X-Men, Marchand has another shot at a national title. St. FX will travel to Fredericton next week to play at the University Cup against the best university teams from across the country.
"It's definitely a great opportunity for me as well as the team and I can't wait to get it started."
The X-Men have Marchand to thank for getting them this far. He's been a workhorse in the playoffs, winning seven straight games.
He made 80 saves in two games as the X-Men knocked off top-ranked University of New Brunswick in the AUS final. In Game 2 on Wednesday night, St. FX trailed by two goals but rallied back for the win.
"It was incredible to come back like that and win when we were down by two," said Marchand. "It was a very special feeling to do it in front of our home fans in Antigonish."