PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – In a stunning victory against a nationally-ranked Division 3 hockey club, the Air Force Technical Applications Center hockey team defeated the Miami Hurricanes Feb. 23 at Pembroke Pines Ice Arena, Miami’s home rink.
The Air Force team made the three-hour trip south to face off against the ‘Canes in an exhibition game prior to Miami’s matchup at the American College Hockey Association South Regionals in Huntsville, Ala. What was expected to be a mild, no-contact turned out to be a grinding battle until the final seconds of the game.
In attendance to cheer them on was AFTAC Commander Col. Chad Hartman and his family. While Hartman had seen the team in action before at their home rink in Rockledge, Fla., this was his first time making it to one of their road games.
It was a fast game from the opening faceoff and the Hurricanes jumped out to an early lead. It didn’t take AFTAC long to tie the game, and the end-to-end action continued for the duration of the match.
At one point with just over two minutes left in the first period, team captain Bill Hungate battled two Miami defenders against the boards and shoveled the puck to his line mate Ben Gorewich who made a perfect pass to center Jim Black in front of the net for a goal that knotted the score at 3-3.
“That was a critical play and the turning point in the game because second line center Ben Poulin then scored on the next shift with 30 seconds left in the first, giving us the lead, and we never trailed again,” said Hungate.
Even though AFTAC continued to lead well into the third period, the outcome was still in doubt, especially with the powerful Miami Hurricanes in full tournament mode. The program may have advertised it as an exhibition game, but both sides were in it to win it with tight battles in the corners, fiercely fought face-offs and lots of net-crowding.
Right winger Rob McLaughlin tallied two goals in the game and helped propel AFTAC to victory. “It had been nine months since I was on the ice due to work and family commitments, but when Bill came into my office just a few days before the game and said he needed me, I accepted the challenge and told him I would skate as hard as I could. I’ll have to admit, I was exhausted by the 3rd period – that was a full-length game with 60 solid minutes of action.”
AFTAC went on to win, 12-8.
“I knew it was happening – I could see the score, but I couldn’t believe it until the final buzzer,” Hungate said. “Every player on our roster had either a goal or an assist. That is an incredible testament to what teamwork is all about, and this team played their hearts out!”
After the game, Hungate talked with Miami coach Wayne Whitmore.
“Coach Whitmore said he told his team after the second period, ‘Guys, keep playing hard and they will get tired.’ He laughed and said, ‘You didn’t.’ And that’s when I knew we played against a truly first-class organization,” said Hungate.
The team expressed its thanks to the Hurricanes for their hospitality during their visit to Miami.
“They offered to sharpen our skates because the pro-shop was closed and they brought us ice packs after the game, said defenseman Rusty Stewart. “That’s what makes hockey so great – teams sticking together and helping each other out no matter what. I hope we can face off with them again soon.”
The AFTAC Hockey Club will head to Tampa March 23 for a game against the Tampa Bay Firefighters.
“It’s going to be a friendly ‘grudge match’ for Tampa since we beat them last year in our season opener,” said Hungate. “The firefighters are supported by the Tampa Bay Lightning pro hockey team, and it’s always a crowd pleaser when our two teams get together. We hope we can pack the stands for this match-up.”
For more information about AFTAC Hockey or to see their upcoming season schedule, visit the team’s Facebook page or send an email to AFTAChockey@gmail.com.