GATES MILLS, OHIO -- If what started 20 years ago as a 4-year-old boy shooting pucks past his skate-wearing mother ended Tuesday night with an interview in front of a black Gatorade vending machine, I know how I'll remember Luke DeLorenzo.
"She let me score every time," he said of those beginnings and his career. "I don't know if I really had enough talent to score then, but it's been special."
It takes a rare athlete to share a story like that unprompted, especially minutes after leaving the ice for the fourth time in four years without what he came here to do Â¾ winning a national championship Â¾ and with his fellow seniors choking back tears nearby.
It takes a rarer athlete to stop when he sees you on campus, at the least say hello and genuinely enjoy talking shop.
Lasting images of DeLorenzo could be many. There was that game his freshman year, where he carried the Icers to a 3-2 win over the Robert Morris (Pa.) NCAA Division I team by scoring two goals and setting up the third Â¾ he's listed that as a personal favorite.
There was the "I Am Penn State" video where he profiled his life as a Penn State student as a promotional tool for the university.
There was the game-winning goal earlier this season against the same Illinois team that eliminated his Icers Tuesday night.
For me, though, that image came with a little more than 11 minutes left in Tuesday's game. Skating to the face-off circle with his team trailing by three, there was a look in his eyes that didn't say "We're toast," seem frustrated or scream panic. No, it said much more than that.
If there was anything good to take from the 3-0 loss to Illinois in the national semifinals, it was that Lukas Ian DeLorenzo Â¾ or as he's more affectionately known by teammates, fans and members of the press, DeLo Â¾ never gave up.
Not with his team down one, two or three goals.
Not even with his right thigh, which he injured while on duty with Team USA for the World University Games and had caused him to miss time as recently as this weekend (when he missed most of the first-round game and all of the second), still posing a problem.
After the game Icers coach Scott Balboni said if it weren't the national championships, he probably shouldn't have been playing Â¾ and yet there he was for the last 11 minutes of the season, the last 11 minutes of his career, with his thigh starting to tighten, playing every other shift as the team desperately tried to come back.
Asked to sum up the player he called "one of the greatest offensive players we've had here" in one word, Balboni couldn't do it. He needed two.
"Great kid," Balboni said. "He's a tremendous person on and off the ice. He's one of the first people to go out and introduce himself to the community. He's one of the faces of our program wherever we are. He's a tremendous athlete, but he's a great kid. That's how he'll go down for me."
As the clock struck 0:00 and fellow senior Jaime Zimmel stood alone on the far side of the ice, hands on his knees, it was DeLo that skated to his side and placed a gloved hand on his back.
"He said, 'It was a pleasure,' " Zimmel said.
"It's tough. Thirteen of us came here freshman summer. The word family could be overused, but not in this situation. Thirteen brothers went down and it's tough to leave the rink as 13 players not getting what they wanted to achieve."
After the game, as he stood by that Gatorade machine answering questions about the end of his Icers career and the lights around the rink dimmed to barely a glow, for DeLo it still wasn't about him.
It was about the team.
"The four years here, I'm definitely happy and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," DeLo said.
"Obviously losing never feels good, but with the 13 seniors that we have, it's special to be here with them today, even though we lost.
"It's been a great career, but it obviously stinks for it to be over because one more game with these guys would have been nice."
And then he said thank you.
"I just want to thank everybody at Penn State for letting me be a part of it," DeLo said.
"It was definitely very special and I'll cherish my four years as a Penn State Icer."
Luke DeLorenzo, classy until the end.
Dean Myers is a senior majoring in journalism and a Daily Collegian Icers reporter. His email is email@example.com.