NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas – Rodney Dangerfield’s line, “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out,” came to mind on Saturday night during a contest at the NYTEX Sports Centre between the Fort Worth Brahmas and the visiting Allen Americans.
It all started quite normally following the opening face off between the first-place Americans (30-12-9, 69 points) and the Brahmas (30-16-6, 66 points), who entered the evening tied with the Wichita Thunder for second place in the Central Hockey League.
Just 4:24 into the opening frame, Allen’s Brian McMillin notched his 11th goal of the season on the power play, assisted by Anthony Maiani and Tyler Ludwig. That was the high point for the Americans.
The Brahmas, who had uncharacteristically lost their last four home games, followed by tallying six unanswered goals to secure the final score of 6-1.
Phil Fox, fresh back from a call-up to the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros, put the Brahmas on the board with a power play strike of his own, beating Allen goalie Steve Silverthorn at the 13:14 mark. Fox was assisted by Ross Rouleau and Brendon Hodge.
Shots were even at seven apiece and the game remained tied at 1-1 going into the first intermission.
Fort Worth dominated the middle frame, scoring three even-strength goals to make it a 4-1 game after 40 minutes of play.
John Snowden made it 2-1 off a feed from Phil Fox at the 8:51 mark. Ross Rouleau struck 93 seconds later, assisted by Sy Nutkevitch and Tomas Klempa to make it 3-1. With 2:38 remaining in the period, Snowden added his second score of the game, assisted by Fox and Hodge. It was Snowden’s 23rd goal in 28 games with the Brahmas since joining the team on December 21st.
Allen led the shot count 12-11 in the second period but that was their only advantage.
Allen switched goalies entering the final frame, replacing Silverthorn with Aaron Dell, but to no avail. Fort Worth added two more tallies early in the period, starting with a power play strike by Austin Mayer at the 5:42 mark with assists from Snowden and Gregg Eskedjian. 31 seconds later, Sy Nutkevitch beat Dell, assisted by Shawn Szydlowski and Tomas Klempa.
With the game firmly in control, it appeared the Brahmas would cruise into the win column with their two points, placing them just one point out of a first-place tie with the Americans.
In the space of 15 seconds, the tone of the night changed dramatically.
It began with Allen enforcer Alex Penner challenging Brahmas defenseman Daniel Barnes to a fight at the face-off. Barnes declined, although Penner continued to challenge him after the puck was dropped. Barnes was then jumped by Allen defenseman Mike Berube at center ice and while the fight had the attention of the on-ice officials, the real ugliness began.
Allen’s Trevor Hendrikx attacked the Brahmas’ Austin Mayer a few feet away from the Barnes/Berube fight and then Alex Penner, still looking for a fight of his own, came up behind Brahmas rookie forward Cory Schneider and hit him from behind, proceeding to pull him down to the ice and pummeling him in the head mercilessly in what could only be described as an assault with intent to injure. Never mind the size differential – the 26-year-old Penner stands 6′ 4″, 240 pounds to the 24-year-old 5′ 10″, 192 pound Schneider, who was in the midst of his seventh game with the Brahmas.
Brahmas players and head coach Dan Wildfong desperately tried to get the attention of the officials, who had their hands full with the other two fights. To their credit, but to the detriment of Schneider, who did all he could to protect himself from the unrelenting Penner, no Brahmas players left the bench to join the melee. Penner was eventually removed from Schneider by Brahmas defenseman Ricky Helmbrecht.
Allen’s Trevor Hendrikx, who left Austin Mayer laying on the ice, then skated over to grab Brahmas goalie Kristofer Westblom, who had left the crease to try and assist his teammates. Allen goalie Aaron Dell, who had also left his crease, joined Hendrikx in dropping Westblom to the ice and Hendrikx subdued Westblom with several rights to the back of the head. Dell then joined Mike Berube in attacking Austin Mayer, who had picked himself off the ice and tied to assist Westblom. Berube held Mayer while Dell proceeded to deliver five blows to Mayer’s head before Westblom got up and grabbed Dell. The two goalies continued their own battle before Westblom stripped Dell of his sweater and the two were broken up by a linesman.
As he left the ice, Allen’s Jim McKenzie, who had a brief battle with the Brahmas’ Gregg Eskedjian, blew kisses to the fans at the NYTEX Sports Centre, a gesture that one Allen fan later called “a stupid move.” In addition, Allen head coach Steve Martinson took a walk of shame around the rink before leaving the ice after being ejected from the game. Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong was also ejected from the contest and the rest of the game (yes, there was still a game to finish) was coached by Allen Assistant Coach Richard Matvichuk and Brahmas alternate captain Adam Hogg who was a healthy scratch for Saturday night’s contest.
Meanwhile, North Richland Hills Police, who normally provide security at Brahmas games, called in additional officers and the NYTEX Sports Center was surrounded by upwards of 26 squad cars. Officers patrolled the building as well as the parking lots during and after the remainder of the game. There were reports of minor altercations between several fans in the rink following the brawl but it is unknown if any charges were filed.
With the fracas over, officials began the process of sorting out the mess – a total of 10 game misconducts were handed out (one each for Aaron Dell and Mike Berube, two for Alex Penner, two for Trevor Hendrikx and one for head coach Steve Martinson for Allen. Kristofer Westblom, Shawn Szydlowski and head coach Dan Wildfong were assessed game misconducts for Fort Worth. All told, the total penalty minutes assessed for the fracas included 126 for Allen and 42 for Fort Worth. Allen was assessed an additional 18 minutes in penalties during the remainder of the game, which was essentially an extended penalty kill for the Americans. Allen goalie Steve Silverthorn, who later apologized for the actions of his teammates according to a Brahmas employee, defended his crease well and the game ended with the final score remaining at 6-1.
The Central Hockey League is in the process of investigating the actions that took place during Saturday night’s game and their findings will be announced as soon as they decide upon punishments to be assessed for those involved.
It’s hard to fathom that the Americans are scheduled to host the Brahmas at the Allen Event Center today at 4:05 pm CST. The teams are also scheduled to meet again on Tuesday evening, again at the AEC. According to an announcement on the league website, “Disciplinary action is bound to ensue which could leave the participants for this afternoon’s game in doubt and leave one or both of these teams with a short bench…”
Suffice it to say, the battle for the top slot in the CHL standings will be closely watched by the league, which has no interest in seeing a repeat of the events that marred Saturday night’s contest.
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