Twenty-two cards were laid out at a booth at the third annual police versus fire hockey game at the Martha's Vineyard Arena Saturday, with photos and a few details about the Island public safety officers taking the ice. Some players had nicknames, like Tisbury detective Max (Big Red) Sherman and Oak Bluffs police officer Tim (Triple T) Millerick.

Lined up nearby were the players themselves for a meet and greet with the public before the game. Many kids carried the playing cards with them, looking for the player they matched.

“We want people to see our face, not a uniform,” said Mr. Sherman, one of the organizers of the event, alongside Mr. Millerick. “These cards can help familiarize them with us.”

Team Fire earned respect with their best showing yet. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Mr. Sherman said recognition is even more important when responders interact with those with special needs. He said that was one of the reasons behind making this year’s event a benefit for the Island Autism Group, a nonprofit that provides support for autistic children and their families. He said the issue is close to his heart because he has a friend with an autistic son.

“It’s one of those things where police and fire are both here to help,” he said. “If us falling down and looking like idiots helps raise money, then we’ll do it.”

Every seat was filled and fans surrounded the rink, faces pushed up against the glass to see if Team Blue could hold on to its winning streak aganst Team Red after a 9-1 victory last year. During the opening ceremony, father Derek Avakian along with kids Cooper and Lilly dropped the first puck to thunderous cheers and applause.

Oak Bluffs fire chief John Rose predicted a different result this time around.

Sally Carron (shown) performed at halftime along with Laila Branca. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“They’ve been practicing,” he said. “We’ve got some talented players this year.”

Tisbury police chief and volunteer coach Mark Saloio led Team Police from the bench, alongside Edgartown police chief Bruce McNamee.

“I can skate, but it’s more of a past tense thing,” joked Mr. Saloio.

The game seemed to be headed for another blowout after the police jumped out to a five one lead in the first half. But Team Fire fought back in the second half to within two goals. Still, Team Police held off the comeback and kept the winning streak alive with a 7-4 win, including a 3-0 shootout victory when the scoreboard kept up its annual glitch of returning the score to a tie at the final buzzer.

Kate DeVane, president of the Island Autism Group, praised the huge turnout for the event and the effort the Island community makes as a whole to serve special needs children. She said when her autistic son went missing one night when he was five, first responders and neighbors were immediately on hand to help in the search, locating the child quickly.

Big hearts and scrappy play all around.

“There’s a lot of really important back and forth between fire, police, EMT and kids with special needs,” she said. “It impressed upon me how important that relationship is. Them being willing to raise money for this purpose is just icing on the cake.”

Cynthia McGrath, an Island Autism Group volunteer and mother of a 15-year-old son with autism, echoed Ms. DeVane’s sentiments. Her son Connor stood nearby, watching the game through the glass with a big smile.

“We’re just trying to create a lot of awareness and let people know that there’s support out there,” she said.

“We’re here to support anyone who’s on the [autistic] spectrum,” added her husband Kevin McGrath.

Some proceeds from the game will also provide financial assistance to the family of Erica Ponte, who recently died of cancer. The Ponte family are friends with Mike Hathaway, deputy Edgartown harbor master and beloved Zamboni driver who received medical donations last year after a boat injury. He was back in the driver’s seat Saturday night, waving to kids as he made laps around the ice.

“The enthusiasm, the camaraderie...these guys work, play and went to school together,” Mr. Hathaway said of the many first responders he’s known since they first laced up skates. “Just look at the community coming together. It’s great.”