WINSLOW — The boards at Sukee Arena bear the scars of years of body checks and errant slap shots.

The rink’s brisk temperature often leaves a lasting chill that lingers well beyond the time one exits.

Yet for Jimmy Fowler, it is his sanctuary.

“It’s kind of like an escape,” Fowler said Thursday afternoon. “In the arena nothing else matters. You’re just there for three periods to play hockey.”

A junior forward on the Winslow High School boys hockey team, Fowler has continued to play for the Black Raiders this season despite his mother, Jennifer, being engaged in a lengthy battle with cancer. In the early hours of Tuesday morning Jennifer Fowler passed away surrounded by her family.

“She was diagnosed February 9th, 2012 with fallopian tube cancer,” Jeff Fowler, Jimmy’s father, said. “It was a courageous battle with cancer and it was stage four. To make it three years I think that’s a real credit to her toughness and strength.”

Those traits — courage, toughness and strength — have clearly been inherited by Jimmy Fowler, even if he would be the last one to tell you so.

A player who is as humble as he is talented, Fowler has been one of Winslow’s best players this season despite what he has been dealing with off the ice.

“He is the most unselfish player I have ever seen in my life,” Jacob Trask, a long-time friend who plays on the same line with Fowler and Jacob Grenier, said. “If you’re open, he will pass it to you. He will give you a good pass, he’s such a hard worker and he’s just what every coach wants to see in a kid.”

If you ask Jeff Fowler — an experienced high school and collegiate coach in his own right — what holds more value, a goal or an assist, he would tell you they were equal. His wife would have a different answer.

“Jennifer used to always say things like, ‘you know what Jimmy, an assist is just as good as a goal.’ She would always hammer that home,” Jeff Fowler said. “In fact, she said, ‘I’d be even (happier) if you set up goals.'”

It was advice Jimmy Fowler has clearly heeded. Even over the past few weeks when Jennifer Fowler — a science teach at Cony High School for 22 years — was in the intensive care unit at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, her son continued to listen.

“When I was there with her in the ICU she told me to go to school, go to practice, play in the games because she doesn’t want her cancer affecting us in any way,” Jimmy said. “I know that her biggest games that she loved to watch were the Winslow-Waterville games, because the rivalry and all that. She always cheered for me and I always tried to get at least a goal for her whenever we played Waterville.”

The Black Raiders and Purple Panthers renewed their rivalry Wednesday night and while his mother was not there to see him play, Jimmy Fowler did not wait long to get her that goal.

It was just 90 seconds into the contest when Fowler — who also had two assists — finished off a feed from his friend Trask, who was originally credited with the goal but later it was rightly given to Fowler.

“I was really excited to get a goal for her last night,” Fowler said. “I made sure that I was going to play in the game because that’s what she would have wanted. I want to be strong like she was and suck it up, play for my team, try to get the win — which we didn’t, but that’s OK.

“I got to play for my team and be with them even though I was going through — well, still going through — a rough patch. It’s just nice to get all my emotions out on the ice I guess. I love the game so it’s a nice relaxation period to get out of the uncomfortable state as well.”

Jimmy Fowler is grateful for the support he has received, yet at the same time sympathy is not something he would ever seek out. When he told the team of his mother’s worsening condition he also asked them to treat him as they always have, a request that has been honored as best it can.

Recently the team added a teal ovarian cancer sticker to the backs of their helmets and have wrapped the blades of their sticks in teal tape.

“We thought we’d do something about it, show our support without really making a big scene,” senior Alex Berard said. “We tried to quickly order the ribbons and get some tape in just to do a little something for them.”

Berard said over the past few weeks the team has grown closer as it rallies around their teammate.

“Everyone knows they’ve got to be there for each other — especially with these difficult times,” he said. “It’s just brought all the guys closer together and made us more of a family in that way.”

The Black Raiders lost Wednesday’s game 7-5 but in light of everything that has gone on things have been put in perspective for the team. Often times a great deal of emphasis is placed on winning rather than the importance of losing, and particularly how one learns and responds from a difficult loss.

“When you think of sports it can be so competitive but when you look at it in the big picture it’s one of those things that you use to get through things like this,” Trask said. “…(Jimmy) definitely uses it and he definitely works for what he wants and what his mom would want.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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