The Yale University women's hockey team and a record crowd of 1,066 jammed Ingalls Rink to pay tribute to Mandi Schwartz and her incredible two-year battle against cancer during "White Out for Mandi," on Friday in New Haven, Conn.
"It was really special … there were a ton of former and current students and it was an incredible atmosphere," Yale junior forward Aleca Hughes told NHL.com. "I was so proud to be associated with such an event for such a special human being. We all admire Mandi and the challenges she's overcome -- it's just too bad we couldn't win the hockey game."
According to Sam Rubin of Yale Sports Publicity, the event raised more than $9,000 for Mandi and her family. Despite the fact Yale suffered a 4-1 loss to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the evening was a huge success as the players and coaches had been planning the "White Out" for weeks. Silent auctions were held for autographed Bobby Orr memorabilia and a jersey from Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. Additionally, white T-shirts with Mandi's number 17 were sold throughout the week and at the game.
"White Out for Mandi Schwartz" (Yale Sports)
The previous high attendance for a Yale women's hockey home game is believed to be 825, for a playoff game against Princeton in March 2005.
"Our kids' effort was there," Yale coach Joakim Flygh said. "They badly wanted to win this game for Mandi, but it didn't work out."
Schwartz, the sister of St. Louis Blues 2010 first-round pick Jaden Schwartz, is in the engraftment stage of her recovery. Engraftment is needed in order for the transplanted stem cells to begin to grow in her bone marrow and manufacture new blood cells and immune cells. Her life-saving transplant at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance's in-patient transplant unit at the University of Washington Medical Center on Sept. 22 utilized blood from two anonymous umbilical cord blood donations.
Complete recovery of a new immune system takes approximately a year -- sometimes longer depending on any complications as a result of the transplant. Schwartz has been monitored closely through blood tests to confirm that new blood cells are being produced.
Schwartz was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia just days after assisting Yale to a 4-1 win against Brown in 2008. She went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy in an attempt to put the cancer into remission.
"I called Mandi after the game and she told me she was watching the game online and very thankful to everyone who made it all happen," Hughes said. "She also said she was proud of us."
Schwartz is in Seattle recovering from her stem cell transplant.
In addition to honoring Mandi with pregame speeches from Yale teammates Alyssa Clarke and Berit Johnson, Yale also introduced the newest member of their team, Giana, a 9-year-old Yale-New Haven Hospital patient the Bulldogs have adopted. Giana, who is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor, dropped the ceremonial first puck after Yale captain Samantha MacLean accepted a check for $1,000 from RPI on Mandi's behalf. The Engineers held a fund-raiser of their own last weekend.
"We were so grateful for what RPI did … they wanted to help out any way they could," Hughes said.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale