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News | May 3, 2010

Can-Am Cup goes down to the wire, Canadians come out ahead in 552nd ACW’s annual match-up

By John Stuart Tinker AFB Public Affairs

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – To say it's been a good year for Canada in the ice hockey realm would be an understatement equal to the vastness of the Great White North.

What happened at the Olympics in Vancouver will long keep the hockey fires aflame within the hearts of Maple Leaf nationals everywhere. It's a blaze that started in February, but on April 23 the Canadian hockeyeurs at Tinker tossed a couple more logs onto the fire.

And to say it was a good game last Friday night at the Blazers Ice Center would be another understatement. It was the second annual 552nd Air Control Wing Can Am Cup and there was a lot at stake.

Coming off a 5-4 win in last year's maiden game, the Americans were looking to improve on greatness while extinguish the lingering Olympic embers.

Turns out the Canadians have one heck of an inferno going, and they claimed the win 6-5 in a gripping match culminating in a shootout.

In the sudden death shootout it was Canadian forward Erik "Rosy" Rozema-Seaton's shot past goalie Justin Paquette that iced the victory.

"It was great to get the win for the team, we all worked hard for it tonight. It's nice to finish it off for a 'W'," Rozema-Seaton said.

With a hard juke right and last second shot to the left, Rozema-Seaton slipped the biscuit past Paquette as the Canadians stormed the ice in celebration.

"I was just thinking the last three guys had gone to the right so I was going to go to the left," Rozema-Seaton said. "It feels as good as if anyone else would've scored it. It's just nice to not have to put up with the taunts from the rest of the wing for another year."

It's true. To the victor goes the spoils in this friendly competition that more than 500 spectators showed up for. Where the Americans once got to boast, next year's hubris belongs to Canada.

"We get the cup and we get to brag and strut around a little bit," said Canadian goalie Dan Publicover, who played a standout game, blocking four of five attempts in the shootout alone. "We beat them in the Olympics, we beat them here. It's Canada's game and it's good to show it here in the States."

The Canadians' commander agrees. Lt. Col. Henrik Smith, 552nd ACW Canadian Detachment commander, suited up for a second time in consecutive Can Am games and couldn't be happier about silencing the American needling.

"It feels great, we've been eating a little crow for the last year. Now the world is right," Colonel Smith said with a smile. "That cup's coming out of (552nd ACW commander Col. Pat Hoffman's) office and we'll put it in the glass window so every day it will be situated properly where it belongs."

But the win was anything but guaranteed for the Canadians. Missing several key players to deployments, Kyle Bostic -- an American who plays with the division two Nordiques -- joined them as a stand-in forward.

The teams kept it interesting to be sure. It was tied 4-4 in the final period going into the final minute and both teams pined for the win.

"We are not going to a shootout," said American team captain Derrick Iwanenko in a timeout with one minute left.

Jim McCarron, the Canadian's captain, offered a similar charge to his huddle.

"Let's win this game boys," he said.

His words must've soaked in. Only moments later, with 37 seconds left, Bostic slipped one into the net to earn a hat trick and put Canada up 5-4.

There was much rejoicing.

But it was short lived.

The Americans pulled their goalie and charged with six forwards, leaving an open net. The offensive blitz came down the ice in force and Miguel Lopez slapped one in the back of the net from the point with 13 seconds left. His score tied it at 5-5 to force the shootout and eventual Maple Leaf victory.

The Canadians stormed onto the ice, surrounding Rozema-Seaton in a blob of red and white pride that was equal parts cheer and nationalism. For those brief moments of post-game rapture it wouldn't be blasphemous to say the rink transformed into Canadian soil. For them it was a slice of home.

Building on the tradition of last year where more than 200 attended, the game's attendance saw an increase of families. Colonel Hoffman was a keen supporter of the action, releasing the introductory puck drop and lining the grandstand with fellow fans. The game bolsters an existing tradition of Can Am games that are played at the four other Canadian detachment bases across the United States. And with the Tinker series tied at 1-1, the promise of close competition is looking good for the years ahead.

Canadians everywhere will never forget what happened at Vancouver in February. You can also bet that within the 552nd ACW, there's a small group of Canadians that will hold on to the April 23 win with an equal fire.

As Publicover said: "We won, we got the cup, baby."

But there's always next year.