Soldier-athletes got a taste of competition after their first week at All-Army Ice Hockey when they hosted a scrimmage Friday against the West Point Club Hockey team from the U.S. Military Academy.
The All-Army team recorded a 5-3 win at Watertown Municipal Arena, with Sgt. 1st Class Sean Harjala earning the team’s first goal early in the opening period. First Lt. Jonathan Hearn and Maj. Michael Long were credited with assists. Harjala scored another goal in the second period with an assist by Capt. Andrew Starczewski.
The other All-Army goals were earned by 1st Lt. Kyle Donnelly, 1st Lt. Charles Beaton and Capt. Cody Omilusik. All-Army recorded 38 shots on goal, while West Point had 17.
Capt. Cody Ikkala, from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, said that the game play was fast and aggressive on both sides.
"You can’t replicate game speed during practice, so this was great," he said. "It will definitely help set us up for the next scrimmage so we know what we need to work on and get after some of the things we need to do."
Ikkala played four years of Division I hockey with the Black Knights at West Point. He is one of eight U.S. Military Academy graduates on the team.
"I give the cadets a lot of credit because they all came out ready to play," he said. "It’s awesome because I’m a (West Point Class of 2013) graduate playing against cadets, so having that opportunity was surreal."
Beaton, from Fort Campbell, Ky., said that he was a bit surprised by the caliber of talent from West Point.
"They’ve got some really good skaters, and I did not expect that," he said. "I expected a complete blowout, but they had some great goalies and some great players."
Beaton said there’s also a wealth of talent on the All-Army team, and after a week of practices, they are learning to gel as a team.
Lt. Col. Darrin Janisch, assistant coach, said that the scrimmage was essentially their fourth practice, and he was pleased with how the team adjusted to competitive play.
"What we talked about in the locker room after the game were the small tweaks we have to make," he said. "We saw the talent on the ice today and know what we have to do moving forward. It was very good hockey."
The cadets arrived with almost 30 members ready to give the All-Army team a challenge.
"For us, the plan is always to play hard," said Class of 2019 Cadet Christopher Banga. "We were excited to play an actual All-Army team, because it’s a lot different than playing just a regular college team."
The West Point winger said that they didn’t know much about the All-Army trial camp, other than the fact that Soldiers from all around the world had applied for it.
"We know we can learn a lot from them, because of all their backgrounds in the Army and experiences," Banga said. "I know I am looking forward to talking with some of them."
The All-Army Ice Hockey Team will scrimmage the Watertown Wolves at 7 p.m. Friday and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Watertown Municipal Arena.
The three-week All-Army trial camp brought Soldier-athletes from installations around the world to try out for the team and prepare for international competition against a Canadian Army ice hockey team. The game will be played at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at Watertown Municipal Arena.