The seventh annual Armed Services Hockey Tournament, played Nov. 11-15, had participating teams from 12 locations and was made up of active duty military, retired military, civil service personnel, police and fire departments. The various teams represented the U.S. Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, National Guard and Canadian Military with additional players from the Army, Navy and Marines filling open spots on some of the teams.
Hill Air Force Base had three teams in this year's tournament with the Hill Falcons No. 1 team and Ogden Air Logistics Center Phoenix competing in the upper Red Flag division and Hill Falcons No. 2 team competing in the recreational Enduring Freedom division. Play was spirited and the action was fast throughout the three-game round-robin play. The action was even more enjoyable to watch when Hill No. 1 and OO-ALC Phoenix squared off in their second game of the round-robin play to set their place in the finals brackets. After a hard fought game Falcons No. 1 won and moved up in the finals brackets to learn that they would play OO-ALC Phoenix in the semifinals for the right to play for the Red Flag Division Championship.
The OO-ALC Phoenix, with team captain Staff Sgt. Chris Jones, from the 419th Air Force Reserves Center, were ready for the rematch with Hill No. 1, captained by 1st Lt. Luke Marron from the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron. The teams hit the ice and from the beginning they could tell this would not be the same play as the night before. The Phoenix came out hard and fast and were putting the Falcons on their heels and letting them know that they were ready to play. The game went into the third period before either team would put a puck in the net with the advantage going to Hill No. 1. The Falcons rallied again shortly to raise the score to 2-0 but the Phoenix showed them not to take the remaining play lightly as they scored, making it 2-1. With seconds remaining in the third period the Falcons scored the final goal to bring the score to 3-1, securing a place in the championship round for their second year in a row.
Finals play Sunday morning would see the Falcons No. 1 team take on the Crazy Canucks, a team made up of both Canadian and U.S. military forces combined as one team. The Hill team members knew that this would not be an easy game and this proved to be true once the puck was dropped. The Falcons came out strong and fast scoring the first goal on a misplay by the Crazy Canucks goal tender within the first 12 seconds. Then two quick goals brought the game to a quick 3-0 lead at the end of the first period. The Falcons thought they had the game in hand but with the start of the second period the Crazy Canucks showed that they were there to fight and were not going to go down without a fight.
Within the first minute of the second period, the Crazy Canucks had tallied a goal and then added to their score shortly thereafter; bringing the game to a close score of 3-2 at the end of the second period. The third period started off with some outstanding hockey going both ways and neither team ready to give up. Finally Hill was able to put the puck past the Crazy Canucks goalie off a goal from Derrick Peterson, bringing the score to 4-2 and lifting the hopes of the team that the game was in hand. With two minutes left in the game the Crazy Canucks pulled the goaltender to allow for an extra skater to take the ice, The Hill team members knew that the game would come to life and that they would need to play at the top of their game. The gamble paid off when the Canucks put the puck past Staff Sgt. Andrew McDonald, the Falcons goalie, bringing the score to 4-3 with 1:30 left to play. The Canucks kept their net empty, and the Falcons capitalized off a goal from Kyle Phipps, bringing the score back to a two goal game at 5-3. The Crazy Canucks came back stronger, netting another goal making it 5-4 before the Falcons answered with another empty net goal. Unlike last time, the Falcons were able to hold onto the two goal lead in the final seconds of the game, bringing the game to a close, 6-4.
For the second time in two years, the Hill Falcons were able to bring home the championship for Hill AFB in the Red Flag Division.
The tournament offers teams and servicemen and women from all branches and bases the chance to come together and share in the camaraderie of organized sports, forging relationships and friendly rivalries that will continue for years to come.
For more on Hill Hockey, e-mail 1st Lt. Luke Marron, email@example.com, or Michael Shane, michael.shane@hill.