A rivalry has developed in the last decade, but it wasn’t always that way. Air Force took its lumps year after year against the traditionally powerful CC, before breaking through with a 4-1 win in 2008.
“You can’t have a rivalry when the same team wins all the time,” says Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “It took a long time for us to crack that nut. The reason it took so long was not so much because of what we were doing. They just continued to maintain and churn out Hobey Baker finalists and All Americans and future NHL players.”
There is no easy way to build a great hockey program. It takes years. Air Force began its ascent to elite status in 1997 when Serratore arrived and the academy allowed him to recruit older and more experienced players. The results now speak for themselves. Although the historical record leans overwhelmingly in CC’s favor—60-11-2—the Falcons have won four of their last six games against the Tigers. And the Falcons are 5-6 against CC in the last 10 seasons.
The crosstown rivals have even created the Pikes Peak Trophy, which is awarded each year to the winning team. It currently belongs to Air Force.
So the rivalry is on, and it continues on Saturday, Nov. 26, at the Colorado Springs World Arena. Heading into the weekend, Air Force is 4-2 in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, 6-4-2 overall following a tie and loss at Western Michigan the previous weekend. CC is 1-3 in the extremely tough National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and 3-7 overall as the young team continues to rebuild.
“We are always excited to play Air Force and the chance to get the Pikes Peak Trophy,” says CC coach Mike Haviland. “It should be a great game between crosstown rivals. Hopefully we can use our speed to our advantage on the big ice sheet and capture the trophy this year.”
Practices leading up to the game are intense for both teams. It’s an especially big week for Air Force, which will host the University of Denver Pioneers, the nation’s second-ranked team, on Friday. DU was No. 1 the previous week.
“It’s always a special game,” says Air Force defenseman John Hrabovsky. “It’s basically the battle for Colorado Springs. The crowds are always bigger. So it’s a special game to go there and play. This year we only play them there. It’s a special rivalry. They are fun games to play.”
Air Force forward A.J. Reid says NCHC teams always offer a tough challenge and provide an opportunity to measure the Falcons’ quality of play.
“This weekend will be a benchmark for us going in to Christmas break,” Reid says. “We’ll be able to evaluate ourselves and see how we realistically compare against the top teams in the country.”
Colorado College is led by a feisty freshman forward Nick Halloran and sophomore Mason Bergh who have four goals each this season.
The Tigers will have to find a way to slow down sophomore Matt Serratore (nephew of the coach) who leads the team with 10 points, including three goals and seven assists. Junior forward Jordan Himley has shown a potent scoring touch with five goals.
It’s always a challenge for the Falcons when they play at Colorado College where the Tigers skate on a slightly larger, Olympic-sized ice sheet. CC is a fast and skilled team. With more room to roam, Air Force has to adjust.
Hrabovsky likes big ice.
“It makes it even more fun, like it brings out the speed of the game,” he says. “They’re fast, but we’re pretty fast, too.”
A road win in college hockey is always big, but to beat Colorado College in the world arena means plenty.
“Any win gives you momentum,” Hrabovsky says. “Coach says there are games you’ll remember, games against Army, Denver and CC. We’ll look back, and these are the games that will stand out. You win, and it gives you that much more positive energy moving forward.”
Tickets: Available online at broadmoorworldarena.com. Or at the World Arena or Pikes Peak Center, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Faceoff: 6:07 p.m.
Live Streaming: NCHC.tv
Listen Live: KRDO 1240 AM, 105.5 FM