23rd Annual Canada vs U.S.A. Hockey Challenge

  • Published
  • By Dean Siemon, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Northwest Guardian

The Canadian Detachment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has never lost the hockey portion of the Can-Am Challenge Cup series with McChord Fields’ Western Air Defense Sector.

While nothing official is recorded, the Canadian team has won the previous 22 hockey games before the Feb. 17 exhibition at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway. There was some pressure going into the game after the U.S. kept it very close in a 4-3 decision last year.

“We knew their goalie was really good,” said Team Canada captain Kenneth Mui, referring to U.S. netminder Ty Henrichsmeyer. “Our game plan was to put the pressure on and keep the puck on net.”

The game plan worked in an 8-1 victory over WADS. Canadian Detachment skaters totaled 36 shots on net — the same number Henrichsmeyer faced in last year’s game.

“I was just off my game,” Henrichsmeyer said. “Not as close as last year, but it wasn’t a complete shelling.”

Gilles Turgeon scored the first goal a little more than two minutes into the first period. Brian Berkman scored a few minutes later to make the game 2-0. Both of Berkman’s sons, Curtis and Brandon, scored goals early in the second period to make it 4-0.

John Austin had the lone goal for Team U.S.A. on one of its four total shots in the game. Team Canada goalkeeper Lillian Gebhardt was recruited to play in the game by Berkman, her youth hockey coach. She said facing only so many shots actually led to her not expecting them when they came.

“It gets in your mind ‘Oh, you probably won’t face this shot,’” Gebhardt said. “Then a good one comes in and gets by you.”

Turgeon and Curtis Burkman scored one goal each to round out the second period to make it 6-1 at the second intermission. Mui scored one goal 5:15 into the final period before Curtis Berkman finished the game with a hat trick goal within the final minute of the game.

“I think they were a lot more refined in moving the puck around,” said Team U.S.A. captain Chris Pavel. “Obviously a lot swifter.”

The event meant two familiar units could enjoy an afternoon away from the base.

“Working together and playing together is another example of the closeness between our nations and the camaraderie between our units,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Wappler, commanding officer for the Canadian Detachment.

The Canadian Detachment looks forward to holding the Can-Am Challenge Cup for about six months — until the two units play the second part of their annual athletic series. In September, the two units will play each other in a friendly game of softball, a game Team U.S.A. generally wins to have its six-month turn with the cup.

Last year’s softball score saw Team U.S.A. defeat Canada by a score of 22-7.

“I prefer to divide by seven and say we lost 3-1,” Wappler said.

As for the 23-year streak the Canadian Detachment has over WADS, the JBLM Air Force unit expects that it can’t last forever.

“We know one of these years, we’re going to win the cup (in hockey),” said Col. Gregor Leist, WADS commander. “It’s going to happen, and we were confident it was this year.”