Americans claim CAN/AM Cup

  • Published
  • By 552nd Air Control Wing
  • Public Affairs
Before a record-crowd, the American component of the 552nd Air Control Wing earned bragging rights with a 6-3 victory in the third annual 552nd ACW CAN/AM Cup.

More than 1,000 spectators were entertained by a game that was much closer then the final score would have shown. There was a buzz in the air from the beginning of the night, which started with a rousing rendition of the American and Canadian national anthems performed by Darci Day and Mindy Rupert.

The Canadians captured the spirit of the oversized crowd and jumped on the American squad right from the start. As in the previous two contests, the Canadians opened the scoring with consecutive goals before the Americans could get into a rhythm.

Just 3:55 after the first puck drop, James McCarron found himself standing in front of the American net unattended and buried a shot in the top corner.

It was not the start the Americans were looking for as he would strike again only three minutes later. At 6:58 of the first period McCarron was again all alone and made no mistake with his second tally of the night.

The Americans found themselves in an all too familiar scenario, down two goals to the Canadians early in the annual grudge match.

Not too many words were being spoken on the bench, but when they were it was evident the Americans were down and out.

"Keep your feet moving; we're all right," assistant captain Terry Courtney echoed down the bench. A prior USAF Academy hockey player, who set a record for penalty minutes during his career, Courtney was drawing on his experience and leadership because the Americans struck back at the 8:55 mark of the first period to have the lead.
Team captain Derrick Iwanenko sped down the ice, which gave the Americans an odd-man rush, and made a no-look pass to Bobby Shearer who fired the puck behind Canadian goaltender Jeff Migdal.

The Canadians, not fazed from giving up a goal, stormed right back. At 12:28 of the first period Erik Rozema-Seaton snapped a "wicked wrister" past the un-expecting American net-minder Justin Paquet. Rozema-Seaton worked himself down the right side of the ice where he outmuscled the American defensemen and was rewarded with a goal.

"That's a tough one to give up," Iwanenko said. But the Americans were determined to get it back. And that they did, only 30 seconds later. Finding themselves in another odd-man situation, which started with Paquet making a great kick save, Iwanenko and eventual goal-scorer Bryson Harley worked the puck back and forth until Harley slipped the puck pass the Canadian goalie to the far-side of the net. It was a great goal having Harley show his skill with such a well placed shot to close out the period and draw the American Component to within one, 3-2.

The second period was fast paced and tight checking with both teams settling down and playing good defensive hockey. Each goaltender traded making timely saves to keep the score knotted at 3-2 before the Americans struck yet again.

With only 2 minutes left in the period, Iwanenko worked the puck over to Shearer who dazzled everyone behind the net. Slipping past a Canadian defender, Shearer found American defensemen David McLean in the open ice and gave him a perfect pass. McLean sent a one-time slapshot top shelf "where momma hides the cookies" to draw the Americans even for the first time since the opening faceoff.

American might would flex again on the very next rush as James Buell gave a perfect slap-pass to Harley, who deflected the puck past Migdal for his second tally of the night. The Americans were ahead 4-3 for the first time in the game but never felt safe going into the third and final period.

Drawing back to last year's disappointment when the American Component lost its third period lead in the final minutes of the game, eventually losing 6-5 in a shootout, the Americans knew the Canadians would fight back. And that they did.

The first seven minutes of the third period presented the Canadians with multiple scoring opportunities, pinning the Americans in their own defensive zone more than a few times. Paquet made four or five timely saves preserving the American one-goal lead.

"He's standing on his head" and "that's a big-time save" could be heard up and down the American bench as Paquet kept his team in the game long enough for John Kozy to capitalize on a scramble in front of Canadian goalie Migdal. Kozy's persistence and tenacity earned the American team a 5-3 edge before the final blow was cast with 59 seconds left in the game.

Shearer was again in on the play, this time setting-up American Defensemen, Chris Beaty who zipped a laser past the glove of Migdal giving the American Component not only the 6-3 win but also its second victory in three years and the all important right to skate the cup.

"It would be hard to pick any one player as the most valuable because so many guys played so well, especially Paquet in the third," Iwanenko said. "Everyone came together to achieve our goal, which was to earn the right to skate the cup, and that is what we did. We did it the right way and had a blast doing it. The experience is a privilege and I am proud to be a part of it. I know the whole team feels that way."

McCarron said other than the final result, he felt the game was a success for members of the Canadian detachment.

"We were able to provide an exciting event for members of the 552nd ACW and their families where they could get out for the night the evening with their family outside of work," McCarron said. "It was a great crowd to play a hockey game in from of. It didn't matter that the crowd was chanting 'USA USA' at one point, they still had you wanting to go out and skate your hardest."