Sheboygan North sophomore was on Lakers hockey team
A few hours before the Sheboygan Lakers first high school hockey game of the season Saturday, Brock Bulkow heard the news.
“My heart just immediately dropped, like I was in such shock,” the Sheboygan North sophomore said.
His teammate and fellow sophomore at North, Will Johnson, had just died of an accidental gunshot.
The two met in sixth grade and Bulkow says Johnson always lit up the room.
“No matter who you were, he was friends with everybody and never failed to put smiles on everybody’s faces,” Bulkow said. “He was just an amazing kid. Everybody loved him. Even people who didn’t really know who he was still were affected by all of this.”
To honor Johnson, Sheboygan played that day and suffered a 2-1 loss to Milwaukee Marquette.
The Lakers responded with a 4-3 overtime victory against Brookfield on Sunday despite giving up the first two goals of the game.
Plymouth’s Ryan Kraus scored the winner, almost 8 minutes into the extra period.
“He kind of filled in for Will’s spot there, and for him to get the game-winning goal was unbelievable,” Lakers coach Kevin Collien said. “I’ve never been a part of something like that and I was proud to be their coach this weekend, that’s for sure.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better performance. Those kids played their hearts out. From beginning to end.”
Johnson’s No. 18 sweater was hung above the Lakers and Red Raiders logos at Sheboygan’s Ice Center. His number and initials along with two hockey sticks were also painted below the surface of the ice in memory of the forward.
“It’s very sad to lose a person of that character,” Bill Sunagel said.
Sunagel, hired to coach the Red Raiders high school team last year (the team is the Lakers this year in order to compete in the WAHA instead of waiting for the school district to lift its sports ban – remembers watching Johnson as a freshman on the junior varsity squad.
Sunagel noticed Johnson’s devotion to hockey and he was on varsity shortly after.
“He was there every day, worked his butt off, made an impression,” Sunagel said. “He wasn’t the prettiest skater but he got the job done. I respect that, and that’s one reason I brought him up to the varsity – because of his work ethic.”
Sunagel also says Johnson was a physical player.
“For a small player, he wasn’t afraid to lean on people,” he said.
The hockey community is now leaning on each other.
One local church asked people to drop off messages or thoughts of Johnson next to its Christmas tree outside.
On Monday night, players and coaches turned their porch light on and left hockey sticks underneath for Johnson.
“It’s a tribute to a kid that’s going to be missed,” Sunagel said.