Seattle Thunderbirds score winner with 26 ticks left; participate in line brawl with Tri-City Americans

Buzzing The Net

Russell Maxwell scored with 26 seconds to go to give the Seattle Thunderbirds a 4-3 win over division rival Tri-City Americans, but the main event was a series of "disagreements" in the third period leading to a massive line brawl.

As you can see in the video below, Americans forward Devon McAndrews crosschecked the Thunderbirds defenceman in the back following the customary hey-get-away-from-my-goalie shove by Wardley:

(Headline idea: 'NO LOVE LOST ON VALENTI—')

Then all hell broke loose. The 3,482 fans in attendance at the ShoWare Center in Kent all seemed to enjoy the sound of teenagers fists cracking on hockey helmet shells, with the sequence resulting in 17 infractions resulting in 84 penalty minutes.

  • After a brief scrum, Tri-City's Parker Wotherspoon and Seattle's Jaimen Yakubowski are able to pull away and drop the mitts first. The play-by-play man notes this is a very important detail, since the first fight is "free" and any fights following the incident will result in game misconducts. Jaimen made better use of the Free Parking space than Parker did, ironically, knocking him to the ice with body blows quite early in the bout.

  • Before Yakubowski is able to finish off Wotherspoon, the camera briefly cuts away to show Russell Maxwell try and pry Justin Gutierrez away from the scrum. Luckily for the T-Birds, Maxwell, who wound up scoring the winning goal after a three-goal rally by the Americans (it was 3-0 at this point for Seattle, which may have led to some of the bad blood) didn't drop his gloves to punch Gutierrez. Those two, and Seattle's Sam McKechnie, whom Gutierrez starts elbowing at the 0:34 mark of the video, were all charged for roughing.

  • The officials are able to separate that scrum, but there are several other pairings. The first to take shape is Jared Hauf fighting McAndrews, who commit the original infraction against Wardley. Hauf, at 6-foot-6 and 216 lbs, was the biggest player on the ice for Seattle and the only player bigger than McAndrews' 6-foot-4 and 210 lbs.

  • Coming into the game, Wardley, wearing 27 for the T-Birds, had 302 penalty minutes in 136 career WHL games. Matthew Gelinas, wearing 4 for the Americans, had 30 penalty minutes in 36 career WHL games. The result is about what you'd expect, especially knowing that Wardley has some recent history being the focal point of a brawl, and Gelinas was tired from a fight earlier in the game. Pick your spots better, Matthew.

  • Every fight winds up the same way: a Seattle team more experienced at the rough stuff stands over a defeated opponent and slowly skates away. There doesn't appear to be any lingering aggression following the events.

  • Despite these fights all winding up in favour of Seattle, who were no doubt spurred on as a team by watching all five players on the ice come out in defence of their goaltender, the Americans scored three quick goals, including a shorthanded goal on the ensuing Seattle powerplay (yes, Seattle got a powerplay out of all this, and it wasn't for McAdams' initial cross-check. I'm sure there's a valid explanation for that).

Unfortunately, that wasn't it for the violence. After Tri-City made it 3-1, Tri-City's Josh Thrower came in from a pretty solid hit on Seattle's Keegan Kolesar, to which 6-foot-3, 210-lb Justin Hickman and all 124 penalty minutes on the season took exception (oops):

Thrower doesn't seem to want to take part initially, but Hickman is really persuasive. Despite Thrower dropping his mitts about thirty feet away from Hickman, it's the T-Birds captain who gets tagged with the instigator minor. Tri-City's Parker Bowles would score on the powerplay to make the score 3-2.

All in all, despite the penalties, this all seemed to end amicably, although at what point does it start to become worrying that the Thunderbirds have now taken part in two line brawls over the last month? The T-Birds are second in the WHL in fighting majors, behind (not surprisingly) the Lethbridge Hurricanes and yes, while there's something to be said about protecting the team's young offensive stars, having three players who would be disciplined under the Ontario Hockey League's ten-fight rule isn't really something to be proud of, nor can a team really be proud of seven of the team's 71 fighting majors have been assessed to players under the age of 18.

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