Photo: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey
Saturday night, the Hershey Bears and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (the New York Islanders affiliate) played one of the most entertaining and violent American Hockey League games of the season. The Bears and Sound Tigers combined to score seven goals and earn nearly 200 penalty minutes. The game featured a chaotic line-brawl, a goalie fight, eight ejections, and 12 misconducts.
By now, you’ve probably already seen the video (taken by RMNB alumnus Kyle Mace) of Caps prospects Steve Oleksy, Connor Carrick, Chris Brown, Liam O’Brien, and the Bears’ goalie combatant, Pheonix Copley. By Sunday night, the video had amassed over 130,000 views.
According to The Patriot-News’ Tim Leone, tensions between the two teams escalated after the Sound Tigers’ Justin Courtnall collided with Copley, the Bears rookie goalie, in the crease.
“I kind of gave him a little push,” Copley said to Leone after the game. “It looked like he just skated right into me. That kind of maybe started it a little bit, and then other things kind of happened that escalated it. Before you know it, everyone was kind of grabbing a guy.”
First, there was a gathering of the minds just outside the crease.
Everybody had a dance partner, but no one was getting groovy. Maybe they were discussing the best place to grab a meal in Hershey. What? Chipotle closes at 10? Let’s go to Red Robin then.
Then it appears Chris Brown says something about Courtnall’s mother. Or maybe Courtnall didn’t want to go to Red Robin. We’ll never know for sure.
Then the boys start holding their sticks like a West Side Story rumble is about to start.
Overall, it’s still pretty calm. Boys will be boys and all that. Okay so maybe we’ll just get the appetizer instead of a full meal.
Brown and Courtnall continue their conversation as they’re escorted to the penalty box. YOU DIDN’T MAKE A RESERVATION, YET?
Then, out of nowhere, Brett Gallant-– an enforcer who may be pound-per-pound the toughest guy in the AHL– met Chris Brown at the penalty box. HOW ARE THEY GOING TO SEAT A PARTY OF 40 RIGHT AFTER A GAME?
And things just deteriorated from there.
Scott Mayfield left the Sound Tigers bench and fought Brown while Gallant went after Caps prospect Connor Carrick. Carrick wisely kept his distance from a guy who’s fourth in the league in PIMs.
Kris Newbury face-punched Courtnall, who was foaming at the mouth.
And then the main event.
The goalies, Copley and Kevin Poulin, squared off. Copley threw one punch, Poulin fell over, and Copley earned the take down.
The photos were dramatic.
Meanwhile, Gallant held Carrick by the collar. This caught the attention of enforcer Liam O’Brien (aka WWE’s Sheamus), who left the Bears bench to defend his teammate.
After O’Brien was escorted from the ice, officials wrestled back control of the game.
“I thought Gallant was the instigator of the whole thing,” Bears head coach Troy Mann said to Leone after the game. “[They] lost a little bit of control of that game there, and consequently we were down some men there with the whole situation that was going on. I thought it got out of hand for no reason with all that stuff that was going on.”
Bridgeport’s Gallant, Justin Courtnall and goaltender Kevin Poulin all received fighting majors and game misconducts, Scott Mayfield got a fighting major and a game misconduct for leaving the bench and Cam Reid received a roughing minor and ten-minute misconduct; Hershey’s Brown, Connor Carrick and Kris Newbury got majors for fighting along with game misconducts, Steve Oleksy got a roughing minor and ten-minute misconduct and Liam O’Brien received a game misconduct for being the third man into an altercation and an additional game misconduct for leaving the bench.
After Sunday’s Caps/Flyers game, I asked Caps goaltending coach Mitch Korn what he thought of Copley’s goalie fight.
“Honestly, it’s not something I like to see,” Korn said via text message. “Having said that there are times you have to stand up for yourself, a teammate, and if you are challenged. It helps if you are bigger and stronger than the opponent also!”
The Bears were lucky to escape that whole incident without any major injuries. They won 4-3. The two teams will meet up again on March 29 in Bridgeport.
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