February 6, 2014 Updated: February 6, 2014 at 6:19 pm
Sophomore Max Hartner may not show up as often as others on Air Force hockey score sheets.
But Falcons coach Frank Serratore considers him a vital player and gets Hartner into the game wherever he can as either a forward or defenseman.
"He's a character guy; an energy guy," Serratore said. "He is not the most talented, but he is difficult to play against, which is how you want your team to be. He leads us in the weight room. He is strong and plays determined and brings out the best in the other guys. We need Max in our lineup."
You can expect Hartner to play this weekend when the Falcons host Atlantic Hockey Association leader Mercyhurst (15-10-5, 13-2-4 AHA).
The sophomore's effort and grit shows up during key moments for Air Force (15-9-4, 10-6-3), which is tied for fourth place with Robert Morris.
After playing defense Friday, he contributed mightily as a fourth-line forward in Saturday's 3-1 home win over UConn. His effort battling for the puck drew three penalties, and led to an important insurance goal on the subsequent power play.
He also forced a turnover and assisted the opening goal to raise his season totals to six points (three goals) in 20 games and 10 points (five goals) in 28 career contests.
"The only stat I worry about is the W for the team," Hartner said. "It's a role I do not mind playing. I do whatever I can to help the team."
That attitude developed while playing for the Colorado Rampage and Thunderbirds club teams. He credited his time with the Thunderbirds for developing his skills as a youth player. While with the Rampage, the 6-foot, 215-pounder learned that he must outwork his opponent to succeed.
His hard-hat approach was evident in junior hockey at Green Bay, where Hartner was a captain.
"He's a good leader on and off the ice," said CC assistant Eric Rud, who coached Hartner when he was with the Gamblers. "You like having him out there every day because he gives everything he's got."
Air Force sophomore Ben Carey of Centennial played against the Greenwood Village resident in club and junior hockey.
"It was hell," Carey said. "He puts you into the glass hard."
He appreciates him now that they are college teammates.
"Everyone respects him," Carey said. "He wills himself to win the battles. His work ethic and passion makes us a better team."