Air Force Hockey Team Plays Florida Tech In Charity Game At Ice Plex
By Space Coast Daily // April 23, 2015
Panthers win 10-6
BREVARD COUNTY • ROCKLEDGE, FLORIDA — It may have been 84 degrees outside, but inside the Space Coast IcePlex, the ice was frozen solid and the enthusiasm sky high.
Thirteen members of the Air Force Technical Applications Center faced off against players from Florida Institute of Technology’s hockey team last month to raise money for the wounded warriors.
The charity game was the brain child of Master Sgt. Aaron Trudel, AFTAC’s radiochemistry lab superintendent. He and co-worker William Hungate, a senior operations officer, share a passion for the sport and thought it might be fun to put a team together.
“About a year ago, Aaron and I had traveled together for a site survey for work,” said Hungate.
“I could tell by his accent that he was from the northeast, and from that we learned we both love hockey.”
From their conversations and passion for the sport, Trudel put feelers out to the base and local community hoping to find a team they could challenge to a charity match.
Hungate had played for the FIT club team several years ago, and through his connections with past and current players, the university athletes agreed to a match with AFTAC.
“Here’s where the real fun began,” said Trudel.
“Another co-worker of mine, Brent Matteson, and I had been playing in pick-up games every Sunday for a few months. Two other AFTACers, Joe Dreher and Luke Peffers had skated together before so we recruited them.
“We generated enough interest within the center to get 13 people on the roster, including Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Goodwin, who had never played in an ice hockey game in her life.”
Hungate joked that their first practice as a full team occurred during the game’s first period, the second practice was the second period, and the third period was their first game.
“We had never practiced as a team before we stepped on the ice for this match,” he said.
“But we certainly came together and played as if we had been skating together for a long time. Just goes to show you the acumen and heart of our players.”
The teams paired off at the Space Coast Iceplex in Rockledge, with AFTAC’s vocal group, Atomic Blue, delivering the National Anthem and AFTAC’s vice commander, Lt. Col. Jeff Dyball, dropping the ceremonial puck.
Through three periods of exciting back-and-forth action, without a single penalty, injury or fight, the Panthers came away with the victory, 10-6.
“From my standpoint, there wasn’t a loser in this game,” said Hungate.
“For starters, the look in the eyes of the Florida Tech players when they saw we knew what we were doing and how to play was maybe a little more than they expected. But the true winners in this are the veterans who will benefit from the funds raised for the wounded warriors.”
At the end of the game, the team lined up for the traditional handshake, then gathered at center ice as Trudel and Hungate presented a symbolic check to Iceplex manager, James Francis, in the amount of $2,340.
“In addition to the FIT Panthers and the fans who came out to support us, I can’t thank the folks at Space Coast Iceplex enough for their generosity, as well as the Blue Jackets who donated their time to serve as off-ice officials,” said Trudel.
“This game never would have happened if these people didn’t come together for our worthy cause.”
Of note: the three ceremonial pucks that were dropped each contained the name of a fallen warrior to honor their ultimate sacrifice.
“Our goalie, Keith ‘Spyke’ Schneider, plays a lot of charity games for the wounded warriors, and he has an extensive collection of pucks that have been dropped for courageous patriots who have given their all,” said Trudel.
“Spyke plans to bring all those pucks to Arlington National Cemetery someday.”
Team AFTAC has already scheduled other local and regional hockey clubs interested in playing for charity in the future.
“We hope the momentum from this game grows and word gets out that we are a team to be reckoned with.” Trudel boasted.