Kolden Cook plays hockey, so he's used to getting roughed up. He usually has the pads to handle it.
On Wednesday, all he had was his sweatshirt.
The Franklin Regional sophomore didn't feel anything at first. Maybe a small pinch in his back. It wasn't until he'd left his locker and joined the surge of students streaming outside that someone pointed out the blood.
Doctors said the knife hit him square in his back. Other students with similar wounds are still in the hospital. Kolden, on the other hand, is back home with his family.
All thanks to the sweatshirt.
"That's what prevented the knife from going deep enough to hit anything serious," said Jeff Cook, his father.
Kolden, 15, returned to the ice Thursday night, just a day after the mass stabbing in the science wing. Though he wasn't ready to speak for this story, his family and coach wanted him back in skates as soon as possible, giving him solace in the familiar.
He plays defense for the Franklin Regional junior varsity team, and he's also a wing in the Allegheny Hockey Association's junior league. This year, coach Brian Kurtz put Kolden on the ice with the varsity team for nearly every game.
"He's always listening, he's always working," Mr. Kurtz said. "His work ethic and his willingness to get better, as a coach, that's what you want."
Which made Wednesday morning all that much harder. As soon as he heard word of the stabbings, the coach sent out a mass text to his players: Were any of our guys hit? The reply was almost immediate: Kolden.
His father had just dropped him off at school. Driving home -- the family lives near the Murrysville Police Department -- Jeff Cook saw the long line of police cruisers speeding in the other direction. He didn't know Murrysville even had that many police officers.
Three minutes later, his phone rang.
Kolden was quickly taken to UPMC East, where he was treated and released. Since then, friends and teammates have circled around him, his dad said. He's even found support among former opponents on the ice: A number of Penn-Trafford players have asked if they could wear his jersey to honor him.
Now comes the tough part -- regaining his footing in a world that now feels very different. Getting back on the ice, his dad says, was a great first step.
"I think it was as good for him as it was for all his buddies," he said.
Andrew McGill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1497.