Luke Thunderbolts hockey wins big in Vegas

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Luke Thunderbolts win big
Henry Gilbertson, left, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, blasts a shot past the Hill Falcons’ goalie in game four of the Armed Services Hockey International Tournament division IV, Nov. 9, at City National Arena, Las Vegas. Forty-two military and first responder teams competed in the 17th Annual Armed Service Hockey International Tournament Nov. 6-10 in Las Vegas. (Courtesy photos)

Luke Air Force Base Thunderbolts hockey team won championship titles in two divisions at the Armed Services Hockey Championships Nov. 10 in Las Vegas.

Forty-two military and first responder teams competed in the 17th Annual Armed Services Hockey International Tournament Nov. 6-10 in Las Vegas.

The tournament was divided into six divisions varying in skill and experience level. It showcased the talent of hockey players from military installations across North America and all branches of the U.S. services as well as military and veterans from the Canadian and Australian armed forces.

Since the resurrection of the Luke Varsity Hockey program in 2016, the Thunderbolts have won numerous division titles to include the New Dawn Division V Championship honors in 2018 and then this year, fielding two teams competing in both the Noble Eagle Division II and the Enduring Freedom Division VI, bringing home championships for both teams.

“I knew with great goaltending and a little luck, we could possibly bring Luke home another championship,” said Ryan Allen, 56th Mission Support Group executive officer and Luke Hockey Team president. “I never could have imagined we would bring back both. Luckily, our defenses never stopped skating, our [upper] team was able to take down some top-level competitors, including the Nellis Creechers and the All-Marine Corps Team. No doubt Luke has the bragging rights across all of the Air Force base hockey teams for the next year!”

In order to secure the championship, Luke’s top team battled through players primarily from Alaska and the upper Mid-West and kept the lead for a majority of the game, but the rival team rallied to tie the game at 1-1 with just over two minutes of play remaining. With more than a minute to play, Clyde Gilman, 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance technician, netted the game winning and tournament-clinching goal.

“One of my favorite parts of the tournament was being able to support our other team,” said Kyle Kupiec, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew chief. “Both teams were there for all 10 games and bonded the newer players with the older and more seasoned guys. It felt good to know both [Luke] teams stole the show.”

The championship banners, jersey, along with team photo can be seen hung proudly in the Bryant Fitness Center.

Military members and dependents currently play in four local adult recreational leagues as Thunderbolts and participate in local and regional tournaments. Currently there are more than 104 players affiliated with the organization primarily made of active duty, but also Reserve and retired military members throughout the Phoenix area.

For more information on how to become a player or learn more about the sport or how to get involved, email lukeafbhockey@gmail.com.

Luke Thunderbolts win big
David Bown, 63rd Fighter Squadron, defends his net in the third game of the Armed Services Hockey International Tournament division II, Nov. 7, at City National Arena, Las Vegas.
Luke Thunderbolts win big
Luke Thunderbolts upper division hockey team poses with the Noble Eagle Division championship banner, Nov. 10, at City National Arena, Las Vegas. The tournament was divided into six divisions varying in skill and experience level, and showcased talent of hockey players from military installations across North America and all branches of the U.S. services as well as military and veterans from the Canadian and Australian armed forces.
Luke Thunderbolts win big
Luke Thunderbolts’ Enduring Freedom Division hockey team pose with the championship banner following their 3-1 victory over the Utah Warriors, Nov. 10. Eleven active-duty Airmen from Luke Air Force Base, a Reserve Airman from March Air Reserve Base, California, and a retired Airman from the Phoenix area competed on the team.
Luke Thunderbolts win big
Clyde Gilman, 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron, drives the puck through the defensive zone during the tournament, Nov. 10. Gilman finished the tournament as the team’s top defenseman, notching one goal and two assists, including the tournament-winning goal with less than two minutes remaining in the championship game.
Luke Thunderbolts win big
Shayne Carroll, 62nd Fighter Squadron, awaits a pass in game four of the tournament, Nov. 9.
Luke Thunderbolts win big
Luke Air Force Base’s Enduring Freedom Division hockey team celebrate following the final horn of their game against the Utah Warriors, Nov. 10.