SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Steel cut through pristine ice as Staff Sgt. David A. Jones, playing right wing for the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s Redlegs Hockey Team, bore down on the opposition’s goal. After an assist earning pass from Spc. Remy Gassel, the Redlegs’ center, Jones skated back to the bench having brought the game to 3-2 with the Redlegs back in the lead and an emotionally charged rivalry just heating up.
The Massachusetts Army National Guard Winter Classic held at the Veterans Memorial Rink in Somerville, Mass., on Feb. 28, 2011 was the first of what is expected to become an annual match between the 1-182nd Infantry Regiment’s new Grunts Hockey Club and the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s established Redlegs Hockey Team.
The Redlegs, whose members are soldiers drawn primarily from the 101st Field Artillery took to the ice representing the traditions of the U.S. Army’s field artillery. The Redlegs Hockey Team have served as the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s premier hockey team for decades and has represented the Massachusetts Army National Guard in tournaments across the state and country including, most recently, the yearly Veterans Day Armed Services Hockey Classic in Las Vegas.
The Grunts are a newly created team made up entirely of infantrymen and members of the 1-182nd Infantry Regiment.
The less experienced Grunts entered the rink exuding confidence that they could defeat the veteran Redlegs.
“I’m pretty confident in the team considering this our first year together,” said Capt. Kyle C. Moore, one of the Grunts’ team captains. “We’ve only been together since January and the team was originally started a way of doing PT for our upcoming deployment.”
The Grunts hit the ice hard in what was, at first, an even match. Although Col. Joseph P. Noonan, playing right wing for the Redlegs, scored the opening goal Capt. Andrew Mason of the Grunts quickly tied the score.
Another goal by the Redlegs brought the score to 2-1 and the tension mounted with shouts of encouragement from both benches. “Stay solid one-eight-two,” shouted 1st Lt. Carl J. Nemes, a goalie for the Grunts.
Pfc. Nicolas Cristiano brought the Grunts their second goal of the night bringing the score to 2-2 with the first period yet to end.
With the first period drawing to a close, the Grunts’ defense pushed hard to prevent the Redlegs from scoring; but a vigorous offense scored two successive goals within thirty seconds bringing the score to 4-2 at the close of the first period.
“They left me wide open,” said Jones, who scored the Redlegs’ third goal. “It was a great shot, so I took it.”
The second period saw the Redlegs lead widened their lead over the Grunts to 8-2. “After we got the lead, things sort of seemed to fall apart for them,” said Jones.
“I don’t care what the score is, we still have an entire third period,” said Staff Sgt. Michael F. Fitzpatrick, one the Grunts’ team captains, as he rallied the Grunts with a speech before the third period began.
The third period saw the Grunts rally on defense as they prevented the Redlegs from scoring again. The Redlegs’ lead, however, proved insurmountable and the Grunts were unable to narrow the gap before the clock ran out leaving the final score 8-2.
After the buzzer sounded both teams took to the ice to shake hands and to present the Winter Classic trophy to the victorious team’s captain. Warrant Officer Christopher C. Cobb accepted the trophy from Moore and the two shook hands, vowing to revisit the rivalry next year.
“We’ll be ready for them next year,” said 1st Lt. Christopher M. Johnson, an assistant captain for the Grunts. “There will be a re-match, absolutely, and we’ll be ready for them.”
“We accept their challenge,” said Cobb.