By Heather Keller
The Sacred Heart University men’s ice hockey team traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo. for a two-game conference series against the Air Force Academy Falcons, scheduled for Friday Jan. 19 and Saturday Jan. 20. The Pioneers pulled away with a 2-1 victory over the Falcons on Friday night, earning two big conference points.
Just hours later, the federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight, putting a strict halt to all but the most essential operations. A lesser-known effect being that Air Force athletics would be forced to cancel all sporting events.
“Obviously, after a big win on Friday we were preparing and focusing on getting ready for Saturday’s game, looking to come out with a four-point weekend. So, we were a little surprised and disappointed that the game was cancelled,” said junior captain Mike Crocock.
A statement posted on the Air Force Athletics website on Jan. 20 read, “Due to the government shutdown, all Air Force Academy home and away intercollegiate athletic events have been cancelled until further notice. In the event a solution is reached, the Academy will work to reschedule as many missed events as possible.”
The solution to the shutdown did not come until Jan. 23, days after the team departed from Colorado. Although the Pioneers were prepared and focused on playing both games that weekend, they ultimately made the long trip to see the ice only once.
“It was a long way to go only to play one game, however we were able to make the most out of the surprise day off,” said junior captain Liam Clare. “We would’ve liked to play on Saturday night using the momentum we had earned in winning the night before.”
Clare described the attitude as being a factor during the game, and it was evident during the first period of play Friday night for the Pioneers. However, they were not given the chance to fully execute during the second scheduled game of the weekend, which the team found to be disappointing.
“I felt they [Air Force] did a good job in somewhat putting us on our heels,” said Clare. “I think we would’ve adjusted accordingly the second night and been ready and prepared to give them all that they could handle, and then some.”
Having a day off during the season is highly unlikely for ice hockey teams. Especially one that was a result of something completely beyond the control of the teams involved.
“There was some speculation throughout the day whether we would play or not so we were preparing like we would for any other game, just in case we would play that night,” said Crocock. “Once we got word that the game wouldn’t be played, we took advantage of it as a team.”
The Pioneers were given the opportunity to discuss a plan of action once the game was officially cancelled. The team ultimately decided to go on a team hike including a tour of the Garden of The Gods Reservation in Colorado Springs during the day.
“After that, we got on the bus and headed back to Denver to catch the University of Denver and University of Nebraska Omaha hockey game at Magness Arena before hopping on our flight back to Connecticut,” said Crocock.
Clare added that the game had an electric atmosphere. He said, “the Denver team attracts such a great fan base. Obviously, we would’ve liked to have played, but we made the most of the unexpected day off!”
After an interesting turn of events in Colorado, the Pioneers reach the homestretch of their season with the final month of the regular season approaching.
“We feel it’s important to start to build some confidence, and nothing helps build confidence better than winning games,” said Clare. “When we were confident we played our best, and as seen throughout the season, when we play at our best we’re a tough team to compete with.”
The Pioneers have three final home contests at Webster Bank Arena on Feb. 2 and 3 against Robert Morris and on Feb. 17 when Rochester Institute of Technology comes to Connecticut for a split series at Webster Bank on Saturday. There will also be a game on Sunday that will be played at Yale University.
“I’m really excited about our team coming down the stretch because we know that we are a dangerous team and can beat anyone in our league on any given night,” said Crocock.
The Associated Press contributed to this article