KMC Eagles earn first tournament victory in 17

by Maj. Craig Moe

The Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympic Ice Arena played host to the 17th Annual U.S. Air Forces in Europe Ice Hockey Championships Feb. 12 to 14. Seven military teams squared off in the historic German village with the KMC Eagles earning the champion’s trophy for the first time.

The seven competing teams represented the best of armed forces hockey: The Eagles, the Aviano Dragons, the U.S. Army Baden Bruins, the KMC Adlers, the Bitburg Bears, the Geilenkirchen Flyers and the SHAPE Shields.

Each team played six games in the round robin preliminary round with the Eagles earning an 6-0 record. 

The Flyers earned the right to meet the Eagles in the championship game, as they went 5-1 with their only loss coming in a hard-fought 4-3 game against the eventual champs. The Bruins, 2008 USAFE Champions, came in third place after winning four games but falling to both the Eagles and the Flyers. The Dragons finished the competition at 3-3, while the Shields, Adlers and Bears all had one victory against five defeats.

The first 10 minutes of the Eagles-Flyers match featured end to end skating, but few excellent scoring opportunities. At 12 minutes into the first period, Craig Moe broke the scoreless tie and put KMC on top 1-0. Six minutes later, the Eagles’ Andy Ewert notched a goal and put them in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 lead.

Despite the chant “USA! USA!” from the stands, the Flyers’ Sylvie Roy scored to cut the lead in half, and less than one minute later his teammate Bernard Leblanc tied the game at 2-2. 

Tournament scoring champion Adam Nyitray delivered a goal at 29 minutes, giving the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish. Defenseman Scott Zwiers (later named tournament MVP) added an insurance goal to put the Eagles up 4-2.

After the game-ending horn, the KMC Eagles and  their fans rushed onto the ice, relishing their first tournament victory in 17 years.

Eagles team president Todd Poynter and player/coach Brian O’Connor accepted the championship trophy after the game.

Individual awards were also given out to Mr. Zwiers (MVP), Gabe Kinney (Best Goalie) and Mr. Nyitray (Best Offensive Player).