Updated: Oct 25
By Phillip Goodman
October 9, 2023
The Reno Fire Hosers and California Highway Patrol hockey squads split their weekend series of charity games hosted by the Reno Ice Raiders and Jennifer M. O'Neal Community Ice Arena. CHP took Friday's opener by a 12-6 score then the Fire Hosers fought off a late CHP push for a 12-10 victory on Saturday. Both contests were more than just friendly 'competitive contact' adult league bouts.
"The charity games the last few years have seemed to get more intense each time we play," said Sparks Fire Captain Darren Partyka. "The speed of each game and the amount of contact has also seemed to pick up which is good for the fans watching."
Wheatland (CA) Police Dept. Chief of Police Brian Wittmer concurred with Partyka's sentiments.
"Those games were extremely intense," said Chief Wittmer. "It's a good rivalry. We've done these similar games in the past but these two had some extra spice to them. I think as one team wins more than the other it adds that spice to do better. On Saturday the fire department brought it. It was one of the most intense charity games I've been a part of and it worked out for them for sure."
The California Highway Patrol team stormed to victory on Friday night led by Chico Police Officer Will Robinson's eight-point effort (4G, 4A). Reno Fire Hosers held a 3-2 lead through the second period until Sacramento Police Officer Mike Hamilton tied the game at 12:03. Late in the second, CHP erupted for three goals in a 52-second span with Robinson netting two and CHP Officer Alex Armando scoring once.
Fire Hosers had a chance to make the comeback to start the third period after retired Nevada City Police Officer Shane McLaughlin was assessed a five minute major for face masking. Fire Hosers gave up a shorthanded goal and only scored once on the power play.
Armando had a hat trick in the win plus Calif. Dept. of Corrections & Rehab. Officer Chris Rowland and Sacramento P.D. Officer Mike Hamilton each scored twice. Calif. State Lottery Investigator Justin Stanley chipped in one for the even dozen.
For the Fire Hosers, Sparks Fire Captain Darren Partyka led the team with five points (2G, 3A). Cal Fire Captain John Duvoisin potted two goals, plus Truckee Meadows Firefighter/Paramedic Juris Vaskovskis and last-minute Ice Raiders fill-in Adam Barba each scored once.
Shots were even at 35 for both squads but CHP owned the faceoff dots, winning 40 of the 65 draws. CHP was 2-for-6 on their power plays and the Fire Hosers were 3-for-6 but the Fire Hosers allowed three shorthanded goals.
Proceeds from Friday's game when to support CHP Officer Stacy Smith. Stacy's battle with cancer began on December 19, 2013, when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the last 10 years, Officer Smith has been through a litany of treatments, biopsies, scans, and more only to see the cancer subside yet return multiple times. In May of 2023, the cancer had spread again, this time to her liver and terminally. Chief Wittmer delivered a heartfelt pregame speech about Officer Smith.
"Stacy never complains about anything," said Chief Wittmer. "She still comes to work everyday and never asks for any special treatment. That's not something she's after. She's become a good friend and employee so to do that game for her on friday night was extra special."
Smith received a generous check on behalf of the Wheatland Police Dept. Police Association along with a custom CHP Jersey.
"It was a little overwhelming," said Officer Smith, who still serves as the Wheatland area's evidence officer, crash review office, and patrol officer when called upon. The benefit game gave her and her husband a chance to leave their 20-year-old daughter and 17-year-old-son in Calif. so they could enjoy a weekend away.
"We're appreciative of everybody that came together to support our family to get us through this," said Officer Smith. " It was nice to get up a little early on Friday and play some casino games and have a nice dinner together. It was a nice outing together that we don't normally get because we have opposite work schedules. It was a really great experience and thanks to Chief Wittmer and the Ice Raiders. It was a very nice night all together. Lots of hugs from the fans."
The Fire Hosers came out blazing for Saturday's tilt, scoring 12 seconds into the game and vaulting to a 6-1 lead after 20 minutes. Fire Hosers' biggest lead was 7-1 in the second period and then CHP began clawing their way back with four unanswered goals in the middle frame. Fire Hosers stopped the bleeding with two late goals for a 9-5 lead after two.
CHP mounted another comeback in the third, getting as close as 9-7 until Fire Hosers extinguished that run with two of their own for an 11-7 lead with under eight minutes to play. The CHP had not hit their quota of goals though, chipping away with three more late goals including a dramatic 6-on-4 power play marker by Armando to cut the deficit to 11-10 with 31 seconds remaining. CHP couldn't control the puck in the attacking zone, Fire Hosers were able to clear and Garret Hekhuis' empty netter doused the CHP comeback for a 12-10 Hosers' win.
Heikhus led all scorers with six points (3G, 3A). Partyka and Nevada EMS Official Michael Bologlu tallied five points each. Armando's second hat trick and helper tied him with Justin Stanley and Chris Rowland for four-point efforts.
CHP outshot the Fire Hosers 46-42 and draws were even at 40/40. Both teams were 1-for-6 on their respective power plays. Alex Armando scored the only shorthanded goal of the night as part of his CHP hat trick.
Saturday's game benefited the Nevada Peer Support Network. The mission of the NPSN is to provide quality mental health resources and support to our first-responders and hospital health care professionals so they may live the very best lives possible on and off duty. They accomplish this with collaborative efforts to improve resilience by means of breaking down mental barriers surrounding mental health and align those that serve with optimum mental readiness, according to their website.
"I have personally seen NPSN help coworkers on many different occasions," Capt. Partyka said. "They are there for us for simple rehab and support after structure fires. They show up to be there for us after tough, stressful calls. I have also seen them step in to help us with more long-term/chronic issues like PTSD and burnout. They cover all the phases of stress for police/fire/EMS from the immediate time after a call to the years of burnout or compounding stresses of the job. Nevada Peer Support Network is a great resource for all of us and we are happy to hold charity games to support them."
NSPN rolled up to the game in their newest way service, the "NPSN1" incident rehab vehicle. According to Derek Reid, NPSN President & Founder and Battalion Chief at Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue, NPSN acquired the old ambulance "on a great deal" from local star/hero Jeremy Renner. Driven by retired first responders that still want to serve, NPSN1 offers a place of respite on-scene for firefighters, EMS, and more.
"We have a lot more retirees suffering from a lack of purpose and missing their tribe," said Chief Reid. "They have trouble with relationships and more. First response is a servant/warrior position and when there's no servant role, you miss it. We have a mix of 25 first responder guys like Charlie Tabano [who dropped the ceremonial first puck on Saturday] that drive this ambulance. It keeps them engaged and it's great for their health and mental wellness by serving first responders that are serving them. The ambulance delivers water, food, and a way to get out of the elements for a while for incidents on-scene. We're there to serve those that serve."
Even if you missed the weekend action, you can still go to Nevada Peer Support Network and make a tax-deductible charitable donation now.
After two fun-filled matches, it seems likely that a charity weekend is just what Reno needs to get hockey fans warmed up for hockey seasons.
"It has been a blast to play against CHP the last two years," said Capt. Partyka. "They have a very experienced group with decent young, skilled guys mixed in. We appreciate them making the trip up here to challenge us for a good cause."
Chief Wittmer seems more than happy to make a return to Reno for games next year.
"Big thanks to the Reno Ice Raiders for being a Class-A organization," the Chief said. " It's a pleasure just to be around the organization as a whole. It's hard to put these games together and it seems like the Ice Raiders can do it with ease. I hope we can continue this and make it an annual thing."
The Reno Ice Raiders will begin their third season on Friday Oct. 20 to host a pair of games against Chicago Top Shelf. Ticket sales will be announced that week so be sure to subscribe for alerts as tickets are sure to sell out.
Friday, 10.6.23 - Charity Game 1: Reno Fire Hosers @ California Highway Patrol Highlights:
Saturday, 10.7.23 - Charity Game 2: Reno Fire Hosers @ California Highway Patrol Highlights: