AIEA, Hawaii --
The Army, Air Force team got an exciting 5-3 victory Aug. 29 during the first-ever Wounded Warrior Charity Hockey Game at the Ice Palace, Aiea, Hawaii.
Dave Taylor, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard team captain, organized the event to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a Department of Defense program designed to assist severely injured service members during their recovery.
The game kicked off with both teams battling, speeding across the ice and fighting for the puck at every turn.
Just when it seemed like neither team was going to score anytime soon, AAF’s Josh James scored the first goal 11 minutes into the game.
“That was definitely a defensive lapse on our part,” Taylor said. “Both teams are skating pretty good and going after the puck. We’re winning the battles, skating harder and faster, but it’s that defensive lapse that cost us.”
The second period turned out very differently. Both sides kept the pressure on each other, with the action going end to end until AAF’s Peter Matonis scored five minutes and 15 seconds into the period, giving AAF a 2-0 lead.
But then NMCG stepped up their defense. Both teams struggled to even get a shot on goal until NMCG’s Rafi Steinger scored his team’s first goal with nine minutes left in the second period.
Moments later, AAF’s Michael Knaeble received a two minute penalty for high sticking, giving NMCG an opportunity to get the equalizer.
NMCG’s Matt Pothier capitalized on the power play. The second period ended tied at 2.
The third period began with the same defensive struggle as the previous two, both teams refusing to allow shots on goal until AAF’s Michael Knaeble stepped up and buried two consecutive goals for his team with less than five minutes left on the clock.
NMCG worked hard to close the gap, but just couldn’t keep up with the AAF team as they shredded across the ice.
Then AAF’s Ed Cuneo gave the team more breathing room, scoring his team’s fifth goal with only one minute and 15 seconds left on the clock.
NMCG refused to quit. Launching an all out offensive, NMCG’s Jeremy Gabbard scored his team’s third goal with 26 seconds left on the clock.
“A lot can happen in 26 seconds,” said NMCG’s Craig Cercone. “We’re not out yet.”
Despite NMCG’s confidence, AAF’s effort won out with the 5-3 win.
“I’m really proud of how we did,” said Tom Bell, AAF team captain. “But the real winners here are the wounded warriors. We put on a good show and hopefully that will make people feel good about donating and giving back to those who have given so much.”
Taylor plans to make the fundraiser an annual event.