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Hockey Fights Cancer

Capitals grant wish for young guests fighting cancer

Hold special skate, will line up on ice with them before game against Canucks

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Brock Witmoyer's wish is turning out better than he dreamed.

The 18-year-old from Reading, Pennsylvania wanted to meet the Washington Capitals and spend some time with his favorite player, forward T.J. Oshie, but experienced a lot more than that at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Friday. There's even more coming when he attends the Capitals' Hockey Fights Cancer game against the Vancouver Canucks at Capital One Arena on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNO, SNP, NBCSWA, NHL.TV).

Witmoyer, who had surgery in September 2016 to remove a brain tumor, will ride with Oshie in a limousine to the game and get a behind-the-scenes look when he gets there. He will also be one of six guests from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic who will stand on the ice next to Washington's starters during the singing of the Canadian and American national anthems.

"This could be the wish and I'd be perfectly fine with it," Witmoyer said. "But there's more to come and it's just surreal."

Witmoyer wasn't sure what to expect when he arrived at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Friday with his mother, Lacie Cuccioffo, his stepfather, Gangi Cuccioffo, and his 7-year-old half-sister, Bella Cuccioffo. Witmoyer had a prime seat for the Capitals practice, watching from the bench before being invited to join the players and coaches on the ice to do some shooting drills and get some tips.

"He's been wanting this and hoping for this for the past four years, so for the day to finally be here is almost unbelievable," Lacie Cuccioffo said. "I feel like I'm in a fog about it."

Witmoyer, who played on the club hockey team at Wilson High School in Reading, attends Reading Area Community College and plans to transfer to Indiana University of Pennsylvania in January to major in criminal justice. He started following hockey with his older brother, Aaron, and became a fan of Oshie he scored four times in the shootout for the United States in its 3-2 win against Russia in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. 

So it was a thrill for Witmoyer to learn from Oshie how to improve his wrist shot. Forward Jakub Vrana later worked with Witmoyer on his one-timer.

"I wasn't really big into the one-timers, shooting that, but he was helping me out, giving me some nice tips," Witmoyer said. "Oshie was amazing with the wrist shots telling me what to do, how to do it."

Following the practice, Witmoyer and the Capitals players participated in the Hockey Fights Cancer skate along with the others from Make-A-Wish. Witmoyer has successfully completed treatments but undergoes regular checkups because the location of his tumor prevented doctors from removing all of it.

"It's been good so far, so we pray it stays that way," Lacie Cuccioffo said.

Events like Friday help Witmoyer and the others battling cancer forget about the checkups and treatments for a few hours. The Capitals added another surprise after the Hockey Fights Cancer skate when coach Todd Reirden announced to Witmoyer and five other Make-A-Wish guests - Poppy, 6, from Herndon, Virginia, Owen, 6, from Bealton, Virginia, Re'Nyiah, 16, from Capitals Heights, Maryland, Will, 16, from Millersville, Maryland and Lianna, 18, from Rockville, Maryland -- that they would join Washington's starters on the ice before the game Saturday.

"It's such a special opportunity to be able to do what we do for a living, myself included, and to be able to help in situations like this," Reirden said. "I talked to our guys about it in our morning meeting today. It's an amazing opportunity as a professional athlete that they have to make a difference in young people's lives that are going through difficult times and be able to just connect with somebody and help them through."

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