By STEVE HUNTER
Home, sweet ShoWare Center.
Seattle Thunderbird hockey fans had the hottest ticket in town Saturday night. They were treated to fireworks on the ice during player introductions; two fights between T-bird and Everett Silvertip players; and most importantly, a T-bird victory.
The Thunderbirds held on to defeat Everett 4-3 before a sold-out crowd of 6,125 at the inaugural Western Hockey League game at the city of Kent’s new ShoWare Center.
The T-birds led 4-0 before the Silvertips scored three goals in the final five minutes.
“We’re really excited to be here,” T-bird coach Rob Sumner said. “We were really excited to play tonight and we got the result we wanted. It’s fun to play when there’s a good crowd, people are into it and there’s a buzz in the rink.”
Seattle center Brenden Silvester scored the first goal at the ShoWare Center at the 7 minute, 23-second mark of the second period. Silvester scored from right in front of the net off of assists from Sena Acolatse and Luke Lockhart.
“There was a lot of talk in the dressing room about who was going to get that first goal,” Silvester said. “I ended up getting the lucky break and got the first one.”
T-bird center Jeremy Boyer scored just two minutes later to make it 2-0. Greg Scott and Prab Rai assisted on the power-play goal. The T-birds had a player advantage because Everett’s Ryan White received a 10-minute misconduct penalty for flicking the puck into the crowd after Silvester’s earlier goal.
Scott and Acolatse each scored just 53 seconds apart in the third period to make it 4-0.
Everett wing Shane Harper scored twice and wing Dale Hunt also tallied a goal in the final five minutes of the game to make it 4-3. Harper scored the third goal for the Silvertips with only 35 seconds left.
Seattle (16-20-1-2) is in fourth place, one spot behind Everett (17-16-5-0), in the five-team U.S. Division of the Western Conference. The T-birds followed up their debut win with another on Sunday, a 3-1 victory over the Kamploops Blazers, also on ShoWare ice. Seattle Thunderbirds goalie Jacob DeSerres made 33 saves on 34 shots to lead his team to the win.
In the opener, fans quickly stood up to watch the first fight at the ShoWare Center midway through the first period. Seattle wing Devon LeBlanc and Everett wing Jordan Mistelbacher threw several punches before officials broke up the fight.
Officials penalized LeBlanc and Mistelbacher 5 minutes apiece for major fighting.
A second fight broke out in the second period when T-bird defenseman Brad Haber and Everett wing Kyle Beach exchanged punches before they fell to the ice and officials broke up the tussle.
Officials penalized Beach 2 minutes for instigating the fight, 5 minutes for major fighting and 10 minutes for misconduct. Haber received a 5-minute penalty for fighting.
The T-birds play 24 of their final 33 games over the next three months at the $84.5 million events center. The T-birds moved midway through the season to Kent from KeyArena in Seattle. Now they hope to use the extra home games to help turn a losing record into a winning record.
“It’s going to help for sure,” Silvester said. “We had so many road games. Now we only have eight away games and we’ll have the crowd in here now. It’s going to be perfect.”
Several people held up signs seeking extra tickets as fans swarmed to the arena nearly two hours before the game started.
Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke dropped the puck to start the game at 7:15 p.m.
“Go back to Seattle,” one Everett Silvertip fan shouted at the T-birds as the teams left the ice after a scoreless first period.