Each year in the home of the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe hosts an electrifying hockey tournament.
This year, 11 teams from around Europe, comprising U.S. and NATO military members, traveled to the Olympia-Eissport-Zentrum to compete in the three-day tournament for the much sought-after championship cup.
This year, just weeks before the tournament, coaches were notified that funding would not be available as it had been in previous years for the tournament. Players and coaches rallied together to ensure the long standing tradition of the military tournament would continue.
The KMC Eagles’ own Collin Keller and Eric Helgeson led the pack in handling the budget and organizing a bracketed schedule that allowed for the most competition and playing time between teams. Team coaches met the night before the tournament to iron out last minute details to start play in one of the most thrilling hockey tournaments in Europe!
With opening ceremonies starting bright and early at 6:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, the tournament got off to a great start with the first game featuring the KMC Eagles 2 beating the Stuttgart Mustangs, 4-1. This set up an afternoon game matching the KMC Eagles 1 versus the KMC Eagles 2 for their first official game in more than five years.
Eagles 2 sported their coveted lederhosen jerseys and gave Eagles 1 their toughest game of the tournament, keeping the game tied 7 minutes into second and final period.
Eventually, the bigger brother was able to knock in a few goals toward the end of the game and pull off a 5-2 win.
The Spangdahlem Sabers played an exciting game against the U.K. Warbirds, having only one of two shootouts of the tournament and getting the win over the U.K., 4-3. The games continued with a total of nine games being played throughout the first day of the competition.
Feb. 15 saw nine more big games on the schedule, showcasing the Bayern Rangers with a 7-1 win over Stuttgart to start the day. The Eagles 2 played their fourth and final game of the tournament, falling to the Ansbach Choppers, 3-0. The U.K. knocked Stuttgart out of the tournament with a 4-2 win. That afternoon, the Bayern Rangers played three games in a row, edging by the SHAPE Shields with an exciting 4-3 shootout win, beating the Ansbach Choppers and coasting to their third win of the day with a 6-1 win over the U.K. Warbirds.
The KMC Eagles 1 met their rivals, the Baden Bruins, on fire and exploded with a big 9-1 win. In the final game of the day, the Geilenkirchen Flyers took the Wiesbaden Vikings in a close and surprising 1-0 victory.
Feb. 16 whittled down the teams to just four competing to play for third place and the championship game. After a 4-0 win over the GK Flyers, the KMC Eagles 1 ensured their place for the fifth year in a row in the championship game. The GK Flyers played again against the Baden Bruins battling it out to make it to the coveted final game. GK took the win with a score of 6-3 and Baden took home third place in the tournament.
The excitement built in the Olympic Stadium as the Eagles were ready to fight to hold on to their championship title, playing GK for the fifth straight year in the championship game. GK played a great game, but Eagles 1 took an early lead and never looked back. They left everything they had in them on the ice and won their fifth consecutive USAFE Championship with an 11-3 win over GK.
The tournament was an amazing success with all of the hard work by those participating paying off in a great weekend of top notch hockey. Eagles 1 was well represented in the All-Star selection with Ryan Flanagan being selected as the tournament’s Top Goaltender, Shane Saum as the Best Offensive Player and Kevin “Chief” Dick picked for Best Defensive Player.
Even though just a few players were highlighted for individual awards, the entire organization came home as champions. The spirit and pride we receive from our teammates, family members and friends is what carries this hockey family.
The Eagles organization and team coaches dedicated the tournament and gave the MVP award to Leif Erickson from the U.K. Warbirds as he seriously injured his back playing the game he loves. All players, coaches, and fans wish him a speedy recovery.
The Eagles organization would like to give their utmost appreciation to the rink management, scorekeepers, refs and the entire city of Garmisch for their continuous and unmatched hospitality. Vielen Dank!
With all of the remarkable teams that participated in this exciting tournament, the KMC Eagles 1 will have a tough road ahead of them next year if they want to fight for their sixth consecutive win. Now, all three KMC Eagles teams will be focusing on their normal league playoffs.
The KMC Eagles hockey organization consists of all branches of the U.S. military, dependents (16 and over), civil service, contractors, NATO members and host nation members. We have three teams consisting of all skill levels and we compete in Die Players Liga (German league), friendly games and tournaments in five European countries. We always welcome all skill levels into our hockey family.
To view our calendar of games and events, visit www.kmceagles.com or Google “KMC Eagles.”
(Courtesy of the KMC Eagles)