Air Force teammates Marshall Bowery and Max Harper’s first memories of each other aren’t from basic training or the first day of practice. They’re of commandeering the roundabout on the playground of McGregor Elementary in Rochester Hills, Mich.
“I have a memory of us racing out to the playground in preschool,” Harper said. “We’d just hog the thing.”
They’ve barely been apart since.
Bowery and Harper grew up five minutes from each other, constantly dropping in, and Air Force is the 11th hockey team they’ve played on together. The freshmen live on opposite ends of campus, but make time to hang out.
“I consider him family, a brother,” Bowery said. “Growing up I saw him more than my own brothers.”
The connection sometimes veers into the eerie. They both broke their collarbones in high school, on the same side, with matching scars.
As they moved up through youth hockey - Bowery was “way way way better” at first, according to Harper, but he caught up eventually - the two were a packaged deal.
“We were together, so we got recruited by the same people,” Harper said. “They’d come to see one of us, and like the other one too.”
Harper committed to Air Force in January and Bowery, a few months later. They say it was a coincidence they both wound up at the academy, one of many lucky bounces.
With upperclassmen and high scorers Jordan Himley, Tyler Ledford and Matt Koch missing from the lineup, Bowery has made the biggest step up for the Falcons, scoring four times in four games.
“We knew we were getting a good Falcon,” coach Frank Serratore said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s sturdy, he’s strong, he’s fearless, he can skate, he’s got good puck skills, got good hockey sense. He doesn’t have a weakness. He’s pretty good across the board. We just knew.”
Before the key injuries, Bowery had one point in 16 games.
“Every year since we got to (juniors), he’s always turned it on in the second half,” Harper said.
“I’m notorious for slow starts,” Bowery agreed. “With the right amount of practice, it finally clicked.”
As a team, Air Force can say the same. Winners of five of their past six, the Falcons will host American International College this weekend at Cadet Ice Arena. A sweep would put them in the thick of things in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
But AIC, which trails 32-3-3 in the all-time series and hasn’t beaten Air Force in 11 tries, could provide a stiffer challenge this year. The Yellow Jackets reached the 10-win mark for the first time since 2013-14 last week.
Harper will only be able to watch. He’s been sidelined with an injury since Oct. 28. Bowery said Harper will often text him after road games, offering congratulations and critiques.
“It is a little tough seeing him have success out there while I can’t, but I try to be as supportive as possible,” Harper said.
And if the “brothers” are reunited on the ice this season, the Falcons should be in better shape.
“These are definitely big points that we need right now,” Bowery said. “I think we’re starting to click.”