Service Academy hockey writes another chapter of history this weekend, although not in a way that’s familiar to most fans of service academy athletics. If you’ve been following Against All Enemies for awhile, you may have noticed that there has been no coverage of Navy hockey compared to Army and Air Force. That is because the Naval Academy fields two American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) programs, not an NCAA D1 team like Army and Air Force.
However, Army and Air Force also have ACHA club hockey teams in addition to their NCAA D1 teams. Army has an ACHA D2 team, and Air Force has an ACHA D3 team. This weekend will mark the first time that all three academies have competed against each other in a Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy-type battle.
Army and Navy’s ACHA programs have some history with each other, with the inaugural Army/Navy hockey game taking place in 2013 at the Naval Academy’s McMullen Ice Arena in Annapolis. Let’s take a look at the three teams vying for bragging rights this weekend.
Air Force Falcons ACHA D3
The biggest unknown of the group due to the geographical separation between Air Force and both Army and Navy, the Falcons are not to be underestimated. The Air Force ACHA D3 team has been a powerhouse for many years, and has made several appearances to the ACHA D3 Regional and National tournaments.
Last season, the Falcons finished up as the #2 ranked team in the D3 Pacific Region, posting a 14-5-0 record in the regular season. Unfortunately, Air Force struggled in the postseason and failed to notch a win at the Pacific Regional tournament.
The Falcons may have to overcome some jet-lag, but the fact that they’re D3 doesn’t mean they won’t be competitive in this CIC tournament. Air Force has beaten several ACHA D2 teams in the past, including Navy. The Falcons will definitely come out flying.
Army West Point Black Knights ACHA D2
The Army ACHA D2 hockey team, also known as the “Club Ice Hockey Team,” began as an inline roller hockey team before transitioning to the ice for the 2012-13 season. Following their probationary year with the ACHA, the Black Knights have experience exponential growth in the past seven years.
2013 marked the first-ever Army/Navy hockey game between Army’s ACHA D2 team and Navy’s ACHA D1 team, which resulted in a 6-4 loss for the Black Knights. Since then, Army has faced both the D1 and D2 squads from Navy, faring far better against the D2 team. Army and Navy have had some special contests - being hosted by the Reading Royals ECHL team for an annual “Royal Cup” competition which started in 2014, and being hosted as part of the “Rivalry on Ice” match-up at Madison Square Garden in 2016.
The Black Knights have topped the Midshipmen D1 team only once, in 2016, but are 2-1 against Navy’s D2 team after back-to-back losses last season to the D1 and D2 teams. Army will be looking for revenge in this star match and a chance to extend their series lead.
USNA Midshipmen ACHA D2
The Midshipmen host this weekend’s historic competition as the three service academies meet one another for the first time in a CIC-type battle. Navy’s D2 squad does have a unique situation and possible advantage by nature of being the only team to have played both Army D2 and Air Force D3.
The Midshipmen will also have home ice advantage in both of their games. Navy dropped both games against Air Force a couple of seasons ago, but they did beat Army last season, 2-1. Navy will face off against the Falcons first on Friday night.
The first ever CIC battle on ice promises to be a thrilling event this weekend given the passionate rivalry between all three academies, and the high level of play from all three teams. It’ll be interesting to see who is crowned CIC champions in this inaugural tournament. If you’re interested in following the action, all three games will be streamed on the Navy ACHA D2 YouTube channel.
Navy and Air Force start things off Friday night, followed by Army vs Air Force on Saturday, and finally Army and Navy on Sunday.