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Only female player on high school hockey team gets community’s support after being harassed at game

By Sara Smart and Amanda Jackson, CNN

The energy at a Pennsylvania high school’s hockey matchup this week was vastly different from another recent game that left a player in tears.

Students at the arena, located an hour outside of Pittsburgh, yelled vulgar chants toward Mars High School’s female goalie, who broke down on the ice, according to CNN affiliate WPXI.

The behavior from the students on the opposing team, Armstrong High School, has since led the league to take disciplinary actions against the school.

To show support for the single female athlete on the team, hundreds of community members showed up to Monday night’s game to cheer her on.

“We are appreciative of the outpouring of support for her and join the many in voicing our support,” the Mars Hockey Club board of directors said in a statement over the weekend. “We are proud of our goalie both as a student athlete and for her resilience in persevering though these events.”

As the sold-out crowd couldn’t fit in Mars’ home arena, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins invited the more than 800 fans to fill the stands at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania.

The resilience of the female goalie even gained attention from Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle, a two-time Olympian and goalie for the US Women’s Hockey Team, who attended the game.

“It’s pretty, pretty cool,” she told WPXI. “Every time she makes a save this place goes nuts!”

The demeaning and sexist taunts about the goalie and her body from some fans at the October 28 game have brought consequences for Armstrong students and their hockey team.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League gave CNN an outline of the disciplinary measures, which include banning Armstrong students in grades 9-12 from the remainder of the hockey games in the 2021-2022 season and requiring a faculty member or administrator to attend home and away games to monitor for bad behavior from spectators. Siblings of hockey players can still attend games with a parent or guardian, the league noted.

Armstrong’s hockey team, the River Hawks, are also on probation for the rest of the season, which includes playoffs, according to the league.

The school’s principal called the incident “very disturbing,” according to WPXI, and mentioned the administration has since reached out to the goalie to apologize. CNN has requested comment from the school.

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CNN’s Patrick Cornell contributed to this report.

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