In a feature posted Tuesday to UMDBulldogs.com, Minnesota Duluth sophomore goaltender Zach Stejskal revealed he has been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
The 21-year-old native of Cohasset, who backstopped Grand Rapids High School to a state title in 2017, has been out of the Bulldogs lineup since mid-October, when he received the cancer diagnosis. He’s currently undergoing chemotherapy following surgery and is being treated by Dr. Jeff Engersjerd at Essentia Health.
According to the UMD athletic department, Stejskal is declining interviews at this time in order to focus on his health and academics. He instead opted to do a question and answer piece with the athletic department to bring light to his health situation.
In all CAPS, Stejskal said, “I DO PLAN TO PLAY” hockey yet this season, in the piece.
Special Movember Edition of the Bark and the Bite presented by @Affinity_Plus— UMD Athletics (@UMDBulldogs) November 23, 2021
UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo sits down with @UMDMensHockey Goaltender Zach Stejskal
Link: https://t.co/KxGCLoMFUG pic.twitter.com/nPIt906kZm
“I am doing well and feeling pretty good,” Stejskal said in the UMD Q&A. “It has certainly been an unexpected and fairly scary experience, but, with a lot of support, I have taken the fight head on and am doing well.”
Stejskal appeared in two games this season on Oct. 8 against Bemidji State and on Oct. 15 against Michigan in the Ice Breaker Tournament. He was sharing the starting goaltender job with junior Ryan Fanti with Fanti starting on Saturdays and Stejskal on Fridays.
When Stejskal was scratched from the lineup on Oct. 22 at Minnesota, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said it was because Stejskal had suffered a lower body injury.
Stejskal has a .857 save percentage and 3.50 goals against average in his two starts this season after posting a .929 save percentage and 1.83 goals against average in nine starts a year ago.
Stejskal famously made 57 saves as the starter in last season’s five-overtime NCAA regional final victory over North Dakota in Fargo, North Dakota. He had to leave the game in the fourth overtime after 124 minutes, 37 seconds in goal due to cramping. Fanti finished off the victory, playing the final 17:36.
The Bulldogs brought in UMD club hockey goaltender Brady Anderson of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to serve as the team’s third-string goalie earlier this month after learning Stejskal would be out long-term. Anderson is a senior at UMD.
Movember 2021 hits close to home
In the Q&A on UMDBulldogs.com, Stejskal said the reason he wanted to go public with his diagnosis was because November is Movember, and the Bulldogs are taking part.
UMD men’s hockey players are growing mustaches in an attempt to raise $1,000 for the Movember Foundation, which raises money and awareness for men’s health issues, like testicular cancer, in addition to prostate cancer, mental health and suicide awareness.
“I want to encourage people, men in particular, to go to the doctor, to get their regular health screenings and not ignore something that does not feel right,” Stejskal said in the Q&A. “It helped me to get on this early. It makes health issues more manageable and gives you more treatment options.”
Stejskal’s teammate and fellow goaltender redshirt senior Ben Patt is leading the Bulldogs’ Movember team — listed as UMD Hockey Mo-Bros — which as of Tuesday afternoon had raised $775 via their website: https://us.movember.com/team/2417505.
Patt spoke with the Duluth media last Wednesday during the team’s weekly press conference about the fundraising campaign and to promote Movember.
“I know some of those things run in my family and a lot of the guys I've talked to have experienced it, or their family members have experienced it,” Patt said. “So I think it's for a great cause.
“It’s a good time, it promotes a great foundation.”