LOVELAND - Rookie goaltender Lukas Hafner has been a regular in net for the Colorado Eagles.
But he had only played in five regular season games before taking over the starting position in their post season run. He's won 13 of 15 games during the playoffs, and his team leads 3-0 in the final series against the South Carolina Stingrays after a 5-4 overtime victory.
The road to his starting role and a possible ECHL title hasn't come easy.
Hafner grew up in Toledo, Ohio with his parents Todd and Lorie and his sisters Audrie and Madilyn. In a relationship strengthened by hockey and hunting, Todd and Lukas spent hours together.
"Simply we were best friends," Lukas said, "We did everything together. Just growing up we'd go to tournaments; it was my dad, my grandpa, and my cousin Rusty -- who we played together pretty much our whole lives -- and then his dad and grandpa."
Father and son were inseparable.
"It was always family trips and memories just spent together and I'll cherish those forever," Lukas said.
In March 2012, Lukas received a call from his mother while playing in the semifinal round of his junior hockey season with Cornwall Colts in the Central Canada Hockey League playoffs.
"I got a phone call that you don't ever want to have, that my dad was sick and had cancer," Lukas said. "He went into the doctor because he thought he had just kidney stones -- he had a history with kidney stones -- just thought he had some of those to go get taken care of, then finds out it's Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer."
The worst stage of cancer, Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer means the cancer had spread to distant locations in the body including the lungs, stomach, liver, spleen and more.
After finishing up his second round of playoffs, Lukas was able to make his way back from Ontario, Canada to Toledo, Ohio to see his dad for Easter weekend after hearing the news.
Following a short amount of time for the visit, Lukas traveled back to Ontario to try and finish up the season with a championship, but fell short in Game 7.
His father passed away following the conclusion of the game.
"There's a lot of people that haven't gone through what he has and for him to find the strength to continue to push forward and stay motivated and want to be a part of it, it's incredible," Eagles Head Coach Aaron Schneekloth said.
The 25-year-old memorializes his father on the surrounding artwork that covers his helmet.
On it he recalls: his father's former Division III Bluffton University college football number, No. 55, the same number Lukas wore during his time at Western Michigan; a silhouette of his grandpa, dad and him hunting; the initials of his entire family (TLAM); and his fathers nickname and Bob Seger song, "Like a Rock".
With his dad behind him on the paint of his helmet, Hafner has helped lead the Eagles to a series lead in the finals, a series he knows his dad would have loved to be a part of.
"He'd be just smiling from ear-to-ear," Lukas said. "There's no doubt about that. He was my biggest fan growing up always, such a big support system when times were tough, pretty much just always making sure to keep working hard and things will have a way to work themselves out. You know I think that was a big part of this year, remembering what he would say and kind of just keep working hard."
Hafner and the Eagles lead the Stingrays 3-0 after an overtime win in Game 3 of the ECHL Finals.
© 2017 KUSA-TV