For anyone who has ever laced up the skates, the thought of playing in NHL jersey is a dream that comes true for only a select few.
Air Force senior hockey player Cole Gunner is one of the few.
The forward from Richfield, Minn., was selected to participate in the Chicago Blackhawks Development Camp from July 12-17 in Chicago, Ill. Gunner was among approximately 50 prospects, ranging from draft choices to free agents and current minor league players. Throughout the week, each day was jam-packed with workouts, testing and scrimmages.
Gunner was a second-team all-conference selection last season as he led the Falcons with 44 points and 29 assists and tied for the team lead with 15 goals. Gunner earned the Chuck Delich Award as the team's MVP last season. He was a three-time Atlantic Hockey player of the week and was a member of two all-tournament teams during the season.
"We are very proud to have had five players selected to participate in NHL Development Camps over the last three summers," head coach Frank Serratore said. "It is gratifying to see how the top players in our program are viewed by teams from the best league in the world."
Air Force has had five players in the last three years participate in NHL Development Camps. In the summer of 2012, Andrew Volkening, a 2010 graduate, was in camp with the Florida Panthers, while Kyle De Laurell, a 2012 graduate, was in camp with the Chicago Blackhawks and Adam McKenzie, a 2014 graduate, was in camp with the Washington Capitals. In the summer of 2013, Dan Weissenhofer, a senior defenseman this season, was in camp with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"It was an unbelievable experience," Gunner said. "It was always been a dream to wear an NHL logo on my chest. I feel like I did well. I felt comfortable with most parts of the game, but the most amazing part was the skill level. I would be skating and all the sudden the puck was on my tape. I scored a couple goals in the scrimmages, learned a lot and had a great time. I just feel so lucky to have had this opportunity."
Air Force, coming off of a 21-14-4 record last season, opens the season on Oct. 6 with an exhibition game against McGill University at the Cadet Ice Arena. The Falcons open the regular-season schedule with a two-game conference series against Mercyhurst, Oct. 10-11, at Cadet Ice Arena.