For the first time Tuesday, Air Force and Colorado College will play for a trophy which also honors a former coach for both hockey programs.
The Pikes Peak Trophy, which has both logos engraved on steel mountain peaks atop a heavy walnut base, is in memory of John Matchefts, who coached CC from 1966-71 and Falcons from 1974-85.
Matchefts, 82, died Sunday at his Colorado Springs home. A Memorial Mass will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday at the academy’s Catholic Cadet Chapel, 2306 Sijan Drive. A reception will follow at Eisenhower Golf Club with private interment in Eveleth. A tribute celebrating his life of hockey will be held in early January 2014 (date and location to be announced).
He first served as an assistant under original Air Force coach Vic Heyliger. The two coaches laid the foundation with Matchefts recruiting the program's early greats, including Chuck Delich, the all-time leading scorer (279 points, 156 goals).
"Vic was the face of Air Force hockey and John was its engine," Delich said.
As a player, the Eveleth, Minn., native was known for his speed. He made the 1948 U.S. Olympic team but could not play under high school rules. "The Fly" led Eveleth to three straight state titles and undefeated seasons. He was the first named to the all-state team three times.
He was a three-time national champion at Michigan (1951-53), where he played for Heyliger. The Wolverines captain was a two-time All-American (131 points, 57 goals) and 1953 NCAA Tournament MVP.
He chose not to pursue a pro playing career, joined the Marine Corps and played for the 1956 Olympic silver medalists. He coached high schools in Minnesota before joining Heyliger at the academy. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
"He is an American-born hockey legend," Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. "It's only natural that his name is on the trophy. It needed to be."
The Iron Range native first recruited Delich and then chose him as his coaching successor.
"What I understood about coaching and the game I played I learned from John," Delich said. "I learned more in my first year under him than I did the previous 15 years as a player."
The athletic departments split the $1,000 cost.
"The people behind the scenes did all the work," Tigers coach Scott Owens said. ""It's great especially now that we will play each other a couple times a year."
The teams are expected to play two games most years starting next season.