Gunner lives up to his name at Air Force
Cole Gunner has heard it pretty much on a daily basis for the better part of the last four years, and says it’s never bothered him – and it never will.
The fact that a student-athlete with the last name “Gunner” plays hockey at the U.S. Air Force Academy is every bit as ironic as it sounds, but the high-scoring forward doesn’t mind one bit.
“Yeah, I hear it all the time,” Gunner said. “It never gets old, to be honest with you.”
Gunner has emerged as an offensive force for the Falcons, especially this year being at or near the top of the team’s scoring chart for much of the season.
He says it’s been nice to contribute and hopes Air Force’s strong all-around effort continues as the Atlantic Hockey season enters the homestretch.
“I’m pretty happy with how things have gone this season,” said Gunner, a 24-year-old out of Richfield, Minn. “We only have a few (regular-season) games left and, as seniors, the pressure falls on us to get the job done, but I think we’ve run with it lately and, if we can keep Coach (Frank Serratore) happy, it’s a lot easier to go out there and play.”
With his college career winding down, Gunner can’t help but reflect on his four years in Colorado Springs.
“I think you remember specific things as a freshman, but really all you can do is just enjoy every day,” Gunner said. “Time has flown by, for sure.”
As a junior, Gunner, led Air Force in scoring with 15 goals for 44 points. He tallied 28 points as a freshman and 29 as a sophomore.
Rather than take credit for his individual accolades, Gunner instead points to his linemates the last two years – fellow seniors Chad Demers and Scott Holm – as the reasons for his success.
“Those guys have been great to play with and the chemistry is great between the three of us,” Gunner said. “Coach broke us up for a couple games earlier in the season, but we’re back together now. I think we all work hard out there.
“I think Scott has actually taken his game to a new level, and I think he’s one of the best players in the league. He’s got the skill and also does a lot of the little things like getting to the dirty areas of the ice, working the boards – things like that.”
Gunner also hyped his experience at the Academy as “second to none.” He’s also been impressed with the strides Atlantic Hockey has made in the Division I circles.
“It’s definitely on the rise,” said Gunner. “Every team we’ve played against has competed really well. I think there’s a ridiculous amount of talent in the league.”
Over the summer, Gunner attended the development camp of the Chicago Blackhawks. Getting to see what it takes to be a world-class athlete was an eye-opening experience for Gunner, and one that also made him realize more hockey might be in his future.
“I’d for sure like to look into signing a pro contract, but we’ll obviously wait until after the season,” Gunner said.
After graduation, Gunner and Holm will actually head to Biloxi, Miss., together to begin their post-college work at Keesler Air Force Base where they’ll enroll in cyber school for six months.
“I’d like to continue playing, but the reality is I know I have to prepare myself not to play anymore after this season,” said Gunner. “That’s just how it is (attending the Academy).”
– Matt Mackinder