MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Growing up in a single parent home isn’t easy, but for St. Thomas Academy Mr. Hockey Finalist Christiano Versich, one mom like his is all you need.

Versich has enjoyed a stellar senior season — the game looks like it comes easy, but that’s hardly been the case.

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He grew up as a pudgy kid who didn’t know what his future would hold, but found his calling on the ice.

“I was a little overweight,” he said. “But I kept working hard. I had incredible guidance from Coach, and other coaches that I’ve had in the past. I dropped some pounds and it ended up being a pretty good high school career.”

He hasn’t been alone, and it certainly hasn’t been easy. Versich grew up the only child of a single mother, without a father around for support. His mother, Lisa Wright-Versich, remembers what he was like as a young hockey player.

“When he was 10 he was still playing but he was really overweight,” she said. “Coaches would tell him, ‘you know, you’re not going to be a good player – you’re too heavy. You need to lose weight and you’ve got to give up all this food,’ and he was little!”

For his final game, she’s brought another special someone along: her father. He’s only missed one state tournament since 1973, so watching his grandson on the ice is a big deal.

“He’s very smart. He leads the ice real well and he makes some terrific passes,” Versich’s grandfather said.

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Versich says he’s aware of all the support he receives in the stands, and it means a great deal to him.

“I think they’re very proud of me and it’s nice to know you have a really good fan base up there cheering for you,” he said. “They’ll have your back win or lose and still love you, so it’s definitely nice to have those guys up there.”

On a daily basis, Versich and his mother went through life with uncertainty, but he says he’s glad they had one another.

“A lot of kids that come out of single parent homes — especially boys without a dad — things don’t work out very well,” his mother said. “Christiano, thank God, will not be one of the statistics. I mean, he turned out incredibly well. I love him so much and we’re so close. It’s a great story — we kind of beat the odds.”

This weekend he gets to take a final bow on his high school career to be in the spotlight that he earned. His mother will watch from the stands and remember how far he’s come, and to see how much farther he’ll go.

“I’m just going to give him a hug, probably start to cry a little bit, and just tell him I’m proud of him,” she said. “Onward and upward, let’s get to the USHL, let’s get to the next level, and I’m going to be here to support him every step of the way, like I have been.”

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St. Thomas Academy won the 2A consolation championship Saturday morning in St. Paul.

Mike Max