KENT — Dr. Brené Brown once said, “Fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging.”
Jonah Karnofel probably hasn’t confronted such a “barrier” when it comes to his favorite activity.
The rugged Hudson ice hockey defenseman scored his first career goal during the host Explorers’ come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Cleveland Benedictine. The Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League Red Division matchup took place at Kent State University Ice Arena.
Hudson scored three times in the final period to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Karnofel may have officially administered the coup de grâce. Thanks to a well-placed rocket off the determined junior’s stick, the Explorers built what turned out to be an insurmountable two-goal lead with a little less than five minutes remaining.
More importantly, it gave a certain teenager a long-awaited sense of belonging with his fellow goal-scoring companions.
“I was the last one to get it on our team, so it felt pretty good,” Karnofel said, “especially since I got it from one of my best buds, [sophomore forward] Alec Dickens.”
Unlike Karnofel and his boon companion, Hudson’s turbulent stretch on the ice may have been more like a Charles Dickens’ novel.
In other words, the Explorers’ thrill-seeking but extremely terrifying roller-coaster ride seemed to mimic the 19th-century English writer’s most famous work.
Especially its opening line.
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities.
Prior to their revival in the pivotal third period, the Explorers went nearly 78 minutes without lighting up the lamp. This excruciating drought included a humbling 6-0 defeat to fellow division rival Mentor the previous night.
Pardon Karnofel and his pals if they were partial to another Dickens’ classic. Just like his famous character Estella Havisham, Hudson was “bent and broken,” but it decided to “hope into a better shape.”
Translation: These Explorers have “Great Expectations.”
“We know in ourselves that we always [have] it in us to come back and finish a game like that,” Karnofel said. “It was just a matter of time before we scored.
“We had our game plan set. We were doing what we needed to do and all we had to do was execute. That’s what we did.”
Karnofel, who scored moments after a face-off, couldn’t rest on his laurels despite his clutch tally.
The Explorers committed several penalties during the match. On two occasions, they were compelled to defend their fortress with just three skaters on the ice.
The first encounter led to some destruction. The second one certainly didn’t. Not by a long shot, as a matter of fact.
Despite a two-man disadvantage late in the game, Hudson’s weary but valiant penalty-kill crew did not allow another goal.
“That’s what we have been struggling with all season,” Karnofel said. “We’re slowly working on getting better with it.”
Speaking of getting better, Karnofel’s older brother Luke has been torching opposing defenses throughout the season.
The gifted senior forward finished with two assists against the nearly unflappable Bengals, who lost to Hudson 5-0 earlier in the season.
“This year, he has put a lot of work in the offseason,” Jonah Karnofel said. “I think he is really showing what he can do. He’s showing everybody that he has the potential to be great.”
The kinship between these two coming-of-age siblings will reach its end soon.
Regardless, the younger Karnofel has fit in quite nicely with his fellow slap-shooting gurus. Of course, that’s not necessarily a good thing, according to a noteworthy University of Houston research professor.
When it comes to a certain very significant piece of the Explorers’ puzzle, the best-selling author might have the greatest advice.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
An emerging defenseman is certainly buying into this “self-acceptance” theory. And despite being late to the party, the junior standout has been accepted with open arms by his point-producing peers.
That star-studded group includes his big brother. For Jonah Karnofel, finding the net for the first time will be an unforgettable experience.
In the end, though, maintaining his unbreakable bond with his own flesh and blood will always be his “first goal.”
“It’s pretty nice,” Karnofel said. “I never played with him before besides [my] freshman year. It’s sad to see it end this year. He always has my back and I always got his.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.