Hockey brawl spurs ejected players, team unity


The UK Wildcats take on the Dayton Flyers at Lexington Ice Center on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

Rivalry week transferred over to the ice last weekend.

When fighting on the ice, locked in a frenzied flurry of tossed punches and tugged jerseys with an opponent, the strategy is simple.

“Get him before he gets me,” Sean Wormald said.

Wormald, Nick Skuraton and Dylan Rohar were the starting first line when Saturday’s game against Tennessee got underway. After just over 30 minutes of playing time, they found themselves as the starting fight line. The trio got into a “tussle,” as Wormald called it, with three Volunteers.

Tussle might be an understatement. It looked more like a NASCAR pileup. It started with a Wormald goal and a celebration that may or may not have taken place too close to Tennessee’s goalie.

A frustrated Tennessee player then charged at Skuraton. All ten position players converged, and somehow three pairs of players emerged, interlocked in classic hockey warfare.

“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve never been a part of anything that big, where a whole line ends up fighting,” Skuraton said.

The line brawl occurred just after Wormald’s goal put UK up 5-2, but the goal was overshadowed by what unfolded next.

“A few words were exchanged as we were celebrating, emotions were running high from the rivalry game, and the next thing you know you’re on the ground with another guy trying to beat each other up,” Skuraton said.

Fighting, so ingrained in the culture of hockey, rarely happens at the college level because players can get suspended rather than just receive penalties.

That’s not to say hockey players don’t have class and know when to stop.

“At one point, the guy I was fighting said he was done,” Wormald said. “I could’ve punched him but he was done. It was a victory for me.”

The line brawl was ugly and riveting at the same time.  The incident, which delayed game action for at least five minutes, riled up the crowd into the biggest roar of the night. It also may have provided the team with an extra dose of adrenaline.

“It brought the team together,” Taylor Vit said. “It was a spark for us going into the third period.”

Indeed, everyone seemed to take the positives out of the fight. UK head coach Rob Docherty said it could prove beneficial as a team moment heading into the homestretch of the season.

Vit said it brought the locker room together.  Wormald said it would provide momentum. Skuraton looked at it as an example of team camaraderie.

“It was great to know that my linemates had my back,” Skuraton said. “When someone gets taken down, they were right there helping out.  Our whole line got involved and it brought us closer.”

Ultimately, the six players involved were assessed a game misconduct and ejected from the game. None will have to miss additional games.

“We didn’t get kicked out for the next game, and I think it helped us overall,” Wormald said.

“And it was kind of fun.”