Frank Serratore never will completely free himself from Jan. 28, 2000. The gruesome hockey night lingers in his mind, infuriating and inspiring him.
His Air Force Falcons lost to the Colorado College Tigers, 10-0, and it could have been worse. The gulf between the programs was as wide as the Pacific Ocean, and that’s understating it.
As Serratore drove home from the devastation, he promised himself change would arrive, or else.
”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.”
If you’ve followed Colorado Springs college hockey for decades, it’s still strange to see what happened to our city ice rivalry.
“We lost to them 50 times in a row,” Serratore said.
Not quite, Frank, but close. CC won only 29 of 30, including that 10-0 debacle.
Talk about a turnaround. Air Force has defeated CC five of six times and outscored the Tigers, 25-15. “Our night” has, against all odds, become the norm for Serratore and his team.
But here’s where the fun arrives. Serratore is preparing to tangle with a rival, Mike Haviland, who fully comprehends the city title’s weight.
That’s a change. For decades, CC administrators, coaches, players, fans, students, mascots, pets and alums refused to take Air Force seriously. The Tigers played in the cool conferences while the Falcons labored in stridently unhip Atlantic Hockey. The Tigers won national titles (OK, a long time ago) and produced Hobey Baker winners. The Tigers skated in a big house down south while the Falcons labored in a little house up north.
Haviland isn’t stuck in the past. He’s hungry to push his Tigers back to national prominence, yet he’s wise enough to understand this rise must begin at home. You can’t rule America if you don’t rule your backyard.
Serratore’s Falcons and Haviland’s Tigers face off at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Broadmoor World Arena.
Last season was mostly a happy one for Haviland and CC. The Tigers transformed from one of the worst college programs in America, and we’re talking any sport, to respectable and promising.
They split their Gold Pan games with The Evil Empire of the North, sometimes known as the University of Denver. They battled with dignity, often winning, against a procession of national powers. They flirted with a .500 record, which might not seem a big deal until you consider CC won 27 of 144 games from 2013-2017.
But there was one hugely unhappy night in the mix.
On Dec. 29, the Falcons devoured the Tigers, 6-3, at Cadet Ice Arena. CC fans fell silent watching the slaughter, and Haviland seethed from a bewildered bench. The Falcons left no doubt who reigned in the Springs.
A few minutes after the game, I stopped by the CC locker room to talk with Haviland. This is standard procedure. Coaches talk to reporters and columnists after every game, win or lose.
Not this time. Haviland and his Tigers escaped Air Force’s home ice as quickly as humanly possible, talking to no one.
While gazing into CC’s empty locker room, I realized just how much Haviland wanted to rule the city and erase CC’s shame.
Earlier this month, Haviland spoke to a few hundred fans at a hockey luncheon. He kept saying last season’s revival wasn’t enough.
He wants more of everything. More wins. More respect. More hope.
And he explored his deep wish to defeat Air Force. Haviland was respectful, but forceful. He meant what he said.
Serratore was sitting nearby while Haviland spoke. Serratore is a high-energy, high-humor public speaker, but when he reached the podium he was deeply serious, if just for a moment.
He had waited, he said, more than two decades to hear those words of respect from someone representing Colorado College’s hockey team, the one that once ruled Colorado Springs.