Sergeant Carson Omilusik, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, thought his glory days of hockey were behind him in December. He was a member of the first All Army Sports’ ice hockey team that defeated a Canadian armed forces team, 4-2, Dec. 16.
The skaters were invited to represent U.S.A. in the International Military Sports Council Baltic Winter Games in Vilnius, Lithuania, Jan. 23 to 26. At first, Omilusik thought he wouldn’t be able to attend due to his responsibilities to the Army.
Luckily, the 2-75 Rngr. schedule just happened to have a slow portion where leadership allowed for Omilusik to join the Army team one more time — this time winning gold after defeating Lithuania 2-1 Jan. 26.
“To throw on a U.S.A. sweater, no matter what you’re playing for, is truly amazing,” Omilusik said.
Omilusik and the other Army hockey players met at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., for five days of practice Jan. 17 to 21 before leaving for Lithuania Jan. 22. One week before training began, Omilusik learned that he was going to be making a shift from his traditional role as defenseman to the forward position.
It was a new position for Omilusik, who grew up playing hockey in Traverse City, Mich. He compared the forward position to playing quarterback in football — reading the zones for openings to pass the puck to teammates.
“It’s a bit more exhausting,” Omilusik said. “I had my work cut out for me.”
The JBLM skater was able to make the transition successfully in time for the first game against Estonia. Omilusik scored the first goal for the U.S. Army team during a 9-0 win Jan. 23.
The U.S. Army team defeated Latvia, 8-5, Jan. 24 to earn a spot in the championship against Lithuania. During a tougher one-goal game, Omilusik said he noticed that the teams they faced played a different style of hockey compared to the more physical play of U.S. and Canadian teams.
“You can tell most of those countries over there focus on more skill,” Omilusik said. “They’re focusing on fancy plays, nice stick handling and all of that stuff. It’s almost a completely different system than what you (normally) have to focus on.”
Omilusik said the rules were slightly different in Lithuania. Considering the language barrier, there were times Army skaters had a penalty, but weren’t exactly sure what the call was. However, that didn’t affect their ability to play the game.
“Hockey is pretty similar no matter where you go,” Omilusik said. “As long as you stick with the basics, it’s all about the minute details.”