Our city's hockey history has taken a major U-turn. This is bad news for Colorado College, who suffered through a long, losing night at World Arena.
When the city's annual hockey championship clash began on Tuesday night, Air Force's Frank Serratore and Colorado College's Scott Owens stood a few yards from each other. On this night, Serratore walked off the ice as a 3-1 victor over his longtime friend and rival.
But let's go back a few years.
Let's return to Jan. 28, 2000. Owens and Serratore were coaching CC and Air Force, but this was a version of the Falcons that is now barely recognizable. CC demolished the Falcons, 10-0, but even on that bitter night Serratore retained faith.
"I really believed that we would get good enough that eventually it would be our night," Serratore said. "If I didn't, I would have left and coached someplace else."
He spoke those words standing by himself in a quiet hallway at World Arena. It was, no doubt, his night.
This was a devastating loss for Owens, whose Tigers now skate around with one win in nine games. I realize it's early in the season, and I also realize Owens delivered one of the best performances of his career when he revived a sleeping Tigers squad late last season.
But these Tigers can sleep for only so long, and they already are in danger of losing their fans. CC played Tuesday in front of a strangely dead crowd at World Arena.
Well, not dead. Just almost.
It was Air Force goalie Jason Torf who turned down the volume. Torf, a senior from the decidedly non-icy town of Hermosa Beach, Calif., delivered a sensational performance, especially in the third period.
He was courageous. He was acrobatic. He left the Tigers with absolutely no chance.
"Ah, he's been so good," Serratore said of Torf. "He's a winner. He's a big-moment goalie. He's California cool."
Torf realizes many CC fans don't take the Falcons seriously.
He hopes Tuesday's victory delivers a message to those doubters.
"It's enormous for us," Torf said. "It's a statement of how far our program has come. This is a statement. This is who we are. It doesn't get much better than this. . We're blessed to have this rivalry, and it's an absolute feeling of elation that I can't even explain."
Not long ago, the idea that CC and Air Force would enjoy a genuine rivalry was as unlikely as Ashton Kutcher delivering a strong acting performance. CC leads the series 59-9-2, and this is not all ancient history. CC won nine games from 1998-2005 by a combined score of 57-12.
But the miraculous has happened. The Tigers-Falcons rivalry is close to dead even. In the last six clashes, each team has won three times. To add to CC's agony, Air Force enjoys a two-game win streak at World Arena.
For some reason, CC fans always climb to the top of the ladder of outrage when I dare say Air Force has drawn close - or maybe even passed - their favorite team. But it's the truth.
Years ago, the CC-Air Force rivalry was comically and pathetically one-sided with the added drag of being gruesome to watch. Those days are gone. An enormous U-turn is complete.