Navy 1 0 3 – 4
Army 1 2 2 – 5
N – Andrew Claveau (unassisted), 16:40
A – Miles Sylvester (unassisted), 3:07
A – Sylvester (Joe Pettit assist), 14:07
A – Eric Syktich (Chris Gokee assist), 13:42
N – Colby Milliken (Andy Fitzpatrick assist), 18:25
A – Marcel Alvarez (unassisted), 16:31
A – Jake Riihimaa (Gokee, Sylvester assist), 14:22
N – Ryan Azar (Brandon Link assist), 8:14
N – Fitzpatrick (unassisted), 7:28
Shots on goal – Navy, 11-0-5-16; Army, 9-17-14-40. Goalies – Navy, Aiden Nelson (40 shots, 35 saves); Army, Kyle Houtz (11 shots, 10 saves) and Josh Hart (5 shots, 2 saves).
Hockey can be quite physical when players on opposing teams slap or punch each other during the game and then carry that energy off the ice.
That’s exactly what played out on the ice at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., home of the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, with an Army-Navy exhibition hockey game Dec. 12. The Army won 5-4. As the clock expired, a fight broke that cleared the benches.
When the last buzzer sounded, fans cheered for what turned out to be a pretty exciting game. The final buzzer ended the game and the confrontation. After the game, both sides shook hands — some hugged — and gathered for a special celebration with an impromptu re-enlistment for the Army’s Patrick Holland, administered by teammate and Marcel Alvarez, a captain.
“I’ve never been able to play in a professional place before, and it was unbelievable that we got the opportunity to do it.,” Holland said. “I had to take advantage.”
The experience presented a unique opportunity for service members from both teams to do something they dreamed of while growing up in their respective communities — playing on a professional hockey arena. Players came from various parts of the country where there were indoor and outdoor hockey rinks. Holland played in Albany, N.Y., and Navy’s captain, Andrew Claveau, grew up across the street from an ice rink in Duluth, Minn.
During the past few months, this collection of service members, veterans and some family members have come together for monthly ice time at the Puget Sound Hockey Center in Tacoma, coordinated with a local Washington chapter of Hockey Saves, a nonprofit organization that provides hockey opportunities to the military.
While the Army-Navy game in December was not sanctioned by the organization, it was how members of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Naval Base Kitsap met.
Discussions began in recent months about playing an intraservice game in Bremerton, and it was Alvarez who wanted to find ice available on the same day as the annual Army-Navy college football game.
“People think that there’s not much hockey up here, but there are a lot of people who play; there’s just not enough ice surfaces,” Alvarez said. “(Navy) guys have ice in Bremerton, and we technically have Sprinker (Recreation Center) in Tacoma. But getting ice in (youth, adult) season is tough.”
After calling one of his contacts with the Thunderbirds, Alvarez and the athletes were able to play the game hours before the Thunderbirds would host the Everett Silvertips in a WHL rivalry game. The military game, which featured a running clock for all three 19-minute periods, started with plenty of back and forth action in the first period.
Claveau scored the first goal for Navy, and Army’s Miles Sylvester scored with minutes left in the period to tie the game up.
The second period was all Army, as they scored two goals in the second period to jump ahead 3-1; Navy did not have a single shot on goal in the period. Navy’s first shot on goal since the first period didn’t come until one minute into the third with a goal from Colby Milliken against Army’s goalkeeper Kyle Houtz, who took over for Josh Hart.
Army extended its lead to 5-2 aftergoals by Alvarez and Jake Riihimaa within three minutes of each other. Navy made it a close game with goals by Ryan Azar and Andy Fitzpatrick within one minute in the middle of the period.
While the scuffle took place in the final 30 seconds, Navy goalkeeper Aiden Nelson did clear the puck from his end of the ice and it was coming right toward the Army goal. Hart, who was watching the fight from the Army net, noticed the puck and easily deflected it.
“I thought near the end that puck was going to coast into the net and tie it 5-5,” Claveau said.
The game was close, and everyone left happy, considering that no one was blown out in an evenly matched hockey exhibition. Alvarez said the hope is that this will not be the only Army-Navy hockey game, as there are hopes to have additional games at ice centers in Bremerton, Tacoma, Renton and Everett.
“It could be a running series, and we could have fun with it,” Alvarez said. “I think there’s going to be more mutual (events) in the future; this won’t be the only game.”