(KINGSVILLE, ON) – Last Thursday night, the St Clair Shores Fighting Saints and the Danville Dashers of the professional Federal Hockey League took to the ice at the Kingsville Arena for a neutral site regular season game.
In comparison, the Dashers sit first in the FHL with 41 wins in 53 games, while the Fighting Saints, boasting multiple call-ups and alumni of the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League’s Kingsville Kings, sit last of seven teams with 14 wins in one extra game.
Alumnus of the Kings’ 2015-16 South Division championship, Zach Zulkanycz, leads the Saints in scoring with 23 goals and 55 points. Another King to make the jump, last year’s GMHL goalie of the year, Jan Pechek has played the bulk of the net time for St Clair Shores, amassing seven wins in 32 games played, and an .897 save percentage in his rookie season.
Matyas Kasek, who split the season between the Kings and Fighting Saints, opened the game by thrilling the crowd with a blast which eluded Danville goalie Andy DiCristofaro. The Dashers struck back a minute and a half later with a snipe from Justin Brausen.
In short order, Danville blew the game wide open with a pair of quickies at the start of the middle frame. The scorers were Darius Cole, only four seconds in, and Justin Levac only half a minute later.
Kasek struck again just seconds after, but Gehrett Sargis, Andrew Harrison, and Louie George ran the score up to 6-2 before the mid-point of the second.
Around this time tempers boiled over.
St Clair Shores’s Dominik Fejt engaged in a short tussle with Daniel Turgeon as the two teams let off some steam to the crowd’s delight.
With five minutes left in the period, Zulkanycz blasted the Fighting Saints back within three.
In the third stanza, St Clair Shores continued to push back with a tally from Brandon Contratto, but Cole popped another for Danville for a little more breathing room.
A final thrill for the hometown crowd was seeing Kasek completing his first professional hockey hat-trick in the final minute, bringing the final score to 7-5. He finished with four points on the night.
Zulkanycz tallied three assists on top of his goal, while, freshly announced returnee to the Kings and next year’s captain, Blake Naida, picked up an assist in the game.
DiCristofaro stopped 27 shots to pick up the win for the Dashers, while Pechek was bombarded with 58 shots for the locals.
The Fighting Saints’ season concluded with the loss, but the majority of the crowd, dominated by Kingsville Kings fans and billets, rooted for the Saints until the very end.
The game was a homecoming for Zulkanycz and Pechek, much beloved members of last year’s Kingsville club, but also a comeuppance for call-ups Naida, Jaromir Vlcek, Jakub Mecir, and the game’s first star, Kasek.
The Kings’ presence on the ice was strong and their efforts with the Fighting Saints will act as a memorable endnote to another exciting Kingsville hockey season.