KMC Eagles take home championship in

Story and photo by Maj. Craig Moe
USAF Ramstein

The KMC Eagles Hockey Club traveled to the Czech Republic Jan. 3 and 4 to compete in the annual Prague New Year Tournament against teams from Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Twelve skaters and two goalies represented the KMC, Department of Defense and the United States, winning four games and earning the championship, as well as a number of invitations to compete in other tournaments throughout Europe.

In the opening game, the Eagles came out flying as their high energy, tough-nosed “old time hockey” approach rocked the Czech Zraloci Zvestov back on their heels within the first five minutes. The Zvestov never recovered, and the Eagles kept pouring in the goals, notching a 10-1 victory. Leading the way for the Eagles was Adam Nyitray.

The second game began much like the first, as the Hasapa of Czech Republic seemed unable to crack the Eagles’ tenacious fore-checking attack.

Despite weariness from international travel and the previous game, the Eagles overpowered the Hasapa and earned another decisive victory with a score of 9-0. Goalkeeper Robin Price registered the shutout, and Upham led the way with two goals.

After the completion of the preliminary round, the KMC squad was the top-ranked team and earned a birth in the semifinals. The Zraloci Zvestov won a play-in game and found themselves facing the mighty Eagles for the second time.

This time, however, they seemed poised to shorten the game by using the running clock rules to their advantage, stalling play at every opportunity.  Despite repeated requests by player/coach Brian O’Connor to stop the clock, the Czech referees refused. Although the Eagles’ rhythm was disrupted, they fought their way to a 6-2 victory and a spot in the finals.

In the finals, the Eagles met the Red Bulls of Switzerland, a fast skating, crisp passing club. After a scoreless first period, the Red Bulls took the lead early in the second period, quickly answered by defenseman Scott Zwiers’ scoring rush. The Eagles took the lead when Craig Moe tallied, but that lead was erased minutes later by another Red Bulls goal. Adam Nyitray scored the game winning goal by putting away an open rebound, and Andy Ewert added an insurance goal a few minutes later, securing a 4-2 victory and tournament championship.

After the game, team captain Jack Connolly accepted the first place trophy during the awards ceremony. Team president Todd Poynter received many kudos by those in attendance for both the Eagles’ high level of play and sportsmanship. The KMC Eagles and KMC Adlers are preparing for the USAFE tournament in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Thursday to Feb. 14.