News: Indiana Guardsman Hockey Team scores big
Story by Sgt. Rob Cooper
COLUMBUS, Ind. — The civilian/Soldier team representing the Indiana National Guard placed second during the third annual Military Hockey Games at the Hamilton Center Ice Arena in late May.
The team, which included five Indiana Guardsmen and nine civilians from around the state, finished the two-day tournament with a final record of 2-1-1, losing in the championship game Sunday to an all-civilian team representing the U.S. Army. The annual tournament, which donates its proceeds to units preparing to deploy, raised more than $5,100 for the 1413th Engineer Detachment's Family Readiness Group this year.
The tournament began May 6 with eight teams competing for the championship title, each team representing either one or all branches of the military. The Indiana Guard team kicked off the tournament with a solid 3-3 tie against last year's defending champs, the Air Force team.
The first period saw advantage for the Airmen with a quick 2-point lead over the scoreless Guardsmen. It wasn't until the final period of Game 1 that the Guardsmen gained the upper hand with three hot shots and a momentary lead. The Air Force however, was quick to respond with their game-tying shot at the bottom of the third period.
1st Lt. Michael Brandt, team captain for the Guardsmen, said that his rookie team did well for their first game despite very little practice prior to the tourney.
"We were really feeling our own team out [during the first game] to see how well we played," Brandt said.
The Guardsmen's second game paved the way for a successful afternoon on Day 1, beating out the Armed Forces team 4-2. The Guardsmen brought their game early in the first with two pucks in the hole and a response by the Armed Forces, bringing the score to 2-1 at the beginning of the second period. The Armed Forces brought a tied game in the second, forcing the Guardsmen to respond with two more points, bringing the final score to 4-2.
Brandt was pleased with his team's cohesion, which helped to beat out their opponents.
"They played aggressively, but not well as a team," he said. "They did outshoot us, but our goalie saved the day on more than one occasion."
Emotions ran hot across the ice on Day 2 as the Guardsmen fought a close game against the Marines Team. Despite some heated exchanges and a few checks against the walls, both teams mainly kept it clean for a good cause.
"Everyone knows we were playing for someone besides ourselves," Brandt said.
The battle against the Marines resulted in goose eggs on both sides by the end of the first period, followed by a single score by the Guardsmen in the second. The final period brought on an early point from the Guardsmen and was quickly answered with a goal from the Marines. Brandt said that the Marines only needed a tie to move on to the championship, forcing the Guardsmen to play defense the rest of the period in order to secure the win at 2-1.
The championship team pitted the tournament's freshman Guardsmen against the seasoned, all-civilian Army Team, which included a number of local high school and college hockey athletes. Despite a Cinderella success in the tournament, the Guardsmen couldn't contend with the fast-paced youngsters.
"It started off quickly and didn't let up," Brandt said. "The entire game, we were up and down the rink."
Both teams traded goals with each other in the first, with a trump by the Army Team in the first. An early goal in the second period brought a 2-2 score, but the Army Team sealed the game with two more points with a final score of 4-2.
Crystal Pickett, the tournament's hostess, was pleased with this year's turn out and the support from both the players and the community.
"Hockey players tend to take it more seriously on the ice, but everyone had a great time," she said. "This year was exceptional because we had all branches of the military involved."
"I was proud to be part of this great cause," he said. "It warmed my heart as a Soldier and a veteran to see the community support us like this."