RAPID CITY, SD—Seasoned hockey fans know that one of the more alluring aspects of the sport is that fighting is allowed. All the other sports incur an automatic ejection if fisticuffs occur, while hockey only garners a five minute cool-down in a center ice suite right on the glass with all the liquid refreshment you can drink.
Oh, it’s against the rules to be sure and doing too much of it can result in an early exit plus fines and suspensions. Banning it has been discussed, both officially and unofficially but it is widely accepted that despite all that fighting will stay as a part of the game for the foreseeable future.
On Saturday night in the Rushmore Plaza Events Center, the game between the Tulsa Oilers and the Rapid City Rush ended in a huge brawl that masked a 4-3 win by the Rush. The teams battled to a 2-all tie after the game’s first 40 minutes on goals by Adam Pleskach and Phil Brewer for Tulsa and Garrett Clarke and Winston Day Chief for the Rush.
War erupted in the third period.
Emerson Clark dropped the gloves twice in the frame, fist with Daniel Barczuk and next with James Melindy and Garrett Clarke. Winners and losers are subjective in hockey fights but while the clear victor in the Clark/Barczuk bout was Clark and there was no clear stated winner on the other bouts. It would provide a spark for the ugliness to follow, however.
Power plays resulting from the fray resulted in two quick goals from the Rush, with Kale Kerbashian netting the first and Taylor Doherty notching the second, giving the home side a 4-2 lead. Adam Pleskach’s second goal of the night pulled the Oilers to within a goal, but time ran out on any comeback effort.
The horn on the scoreboard did, however signal a quick renewal of hostilities as both teams engaged in a line brawl, which to the uninitiated means that every player on the ice picked a partner to “dance” (fight) with. By the time the dust finally settled and the ice cleared, some 226 penalty minutes were incurred by both teams with fines and suspensions pending.
Justice was swift and decisive after the ECHL game. Emerson Clark, Matthew Gagnon and Kevin Carr will have to serve a combined 12 games between them for their part in the brawl Saturday night.
Gagnon will face the severest of the punishment in terms of games as he will miss as the ECHL league office levied an eight game suspension for his involvement in the fight, which involved him leaving the bench to start a fight (five games) and leaving the bench at the end of the game to continue a fight (three games).
He will miss Tulsa’s games vs. Missouri (Jan. 5), at Wichita (Jan. 8), vs. Wichita (Jan. 9), at Utah (Jan. 13), at Idaho (Jan. 15 and Jan. 16) and at Missouri (Jan. 22 and Jan. 23).
Oilers goalie Kevin Carr was sanctioned with a three game suspension for leaving the bench to fight as a second player (two games) and a game for leaving the bench to continue fighting (one game). He will the Oilers games against Missouri (Jan. 5), and the home and home with Wichita this coming weekend (Jan. 8/9).
Emerson Clark, who fought earlier on in the third period Saturday will face the lightest sentence of the three, with a one game suspension for instigator. It’s a revised sentence as he was initially assessed game misconduct which doesn’t carry a suspension. He will miss Tuesday night’s game against Missouri.
Two members of the Rush will also sit suspensions of five games each for their involvement in the fracas on Saturday. Garrett Clarke and Jonathon Norbonne will serve five games each for leaving the bench penalties. Clarke left the bench with 27 seconds left in the third period and Norbonne left the bench for the big brawl at the games end.
All the players involved were fined individually and the teams incurred additional fines as a result of the incident as well.
The Tulsa Oilers have not commented on the incident as of this writing.
The Oilers will take the ice tonight at the BOK Center at 7:05 pm against the Missouri Mavericks.