The school bell rang early for the Kalamazoo Wings (3-1-1-0) on Tuesday morning as they hosted the Toledo Walleye (4-1-0-0) on Education Day. The game started at 10:30 a.m.
Students from all over Southwest Michigan were a part of the capacity crowd of 5,220, including students from schools such as Cassopolis, Marcellus, Centreville and Constantine.
K-Wings defenseman Matt VanVoorhis, who was playing in his first-ever Education Day game, enjoyed every aspect of the game.
“My first Education Day was awesome,” VanVoorhis said. “I haven’t played a 10:30 am game since I was in youth hockey so it was a little different. I thought all of our fans showed a ton of support and it was awesome to see.”
VanVoorhis said that the veteran players mentioned to the newbies that it was going to be loud and VanVoorhis said they were not disappointed by the crowd participation.
After a scoreless beginning to the game, the K-Wings Dylan Sadowy gave the energetic crowd even more reason to cheer as he scored his sixth goal of the season at the 13:51 mark of the first period. The goal by Sadowy, which was assisted by Kyle Blaney, pushed his goal-scoring streak to four games.
With under a minute remaining in the first period, it was Sadowy assisting Blaney on a goal to give the K-Wings a 2-0 lead. Sadowy put the initial shot on net with the puck hitting off the post. Blaney tucked the rebound in for his first goal of the season.
After an impressive first period which saw the K-Wings outshooting the Walleye 18-7, the Walleye bounced back in the second outshooting the K-Wings 17-7 and adding a pair of goals of their own. Brendan Kotyk and former K-Wing Brandon Anselmini scored for the Walleye to knot the game at 2-2. The two goals came just 69 seconds apart.
“In the first period, I thought we came out really strong and showed what we strive to have our game be like for a whole 60 minutes,” VanVoorhis said. “(In the) second period we let off the gas a bit and Toledo turned it on and got back into the game.”
Taking the lead for a second time, Yannick Veilleux scored a power play goal to give the K-Wings a 3-2 lead just 2:24 into the third period. Veilleux tapped in his own rebound for his second goal of the season. Shane Berschbach scored a power play goal later in the period to tie the game at 3-3.
With neither team able to net the game-winner in regulation, the K-Wings and Walleye headed to overtime. For the K-Wings, it was their third OT game in four games.
Unfortunately for the K-Wings, Blake Hillman sent a shot past netminder Jake Hildebrand to escape with the 4-3 win, ending the K-Wings three-game winning streak. With the loss in OT, however, the K-Wings did pick up a point in the standings.
“I think this was a good game to show that we can play with the top teams in the league and have success,” VanVoohis said, “but there are still some areas of our game that need some work.”
Even though the K-Wings lost the game, the students that filled the stadium still had a great time.
Twin brothers Drew and Will Swanwick, third grade students at Centreville Elementary School, enjoyed the game and time away from the classroom to experience a hockey game.
“I was having so much fun that I forgot it was a school day,” Drew said. “We got to see Slappy and scream as loud as we wanted.”
Will echoed his brother’s sentiments.
“It was fun to sit with my friends and make some noise cheering for the K-Wings,” he said. “And I liked being on the big screen during the Fortnite Dance Cam.”
Candice Swanwick, mother of Drew and Will, attended the game as a chaperone.
“We had a few first timers and it was fun to see them take in the whole experience- the Zamboni, the players, the music,” Swanwick said. “And field trips always remind me how amazing teachers are and how much I appreciate what they do.”
Josie Schnepp, a third-grade student from Riverside Elementary in Constantine said that she enjoyed watching the game. Schnepp was also a member of the Riverside Choristers and was on the ice before the game to sing the National Anthem.
“I was nervous when they (the Walleye players) were skating around us during warm ups,” she said. One of the players joked with the students telling them that they will be going to the penalty box.
Jayden Pflug, a fourth grader from Sam Adams Elementary in Cassopolis, had a blast at the game.
“The part I loved best was me being shown on the big screen,” Pflug said. “I was a little nervous, but I thought it was cool that everyone saw me.”
Pflug said he had a fun time watching the game, but was a little disappointed in the outcome. “It was sad that the K-Wings lost,” Pflug said, “but I still had a really fun time today! I can’t wait to go next year!”
Lindsay Gorham, a sixth grade teacher at Sam Adams and mother of Jayden, had a unique perspective of the game as an educator and a parent.
“K-Wings’ Education Day is such a wonderful opportunity for so many children to experience the thrill and excitement of a hockey game with their classmates and other students their age from surrounding schools,” Gorham said.
Gorham is grateful that Cassopolis schools understand the importance of not only getting the students out in the community, but giving them a chance to do something that they may never have the chance to participate in otherwise.
“The K-Wings’ Education Day is an opportunity for all who attend to sit back, relax, and enjoy the game of hockey,”Gorham said. “We are thankful that we are able to be a part of such an awesome day!”
The K-Wings continue their eight-game homestand this Saturday night as the host the Wheeling Nailers on Star Wars night. During the first intermission, the K-Wings are going to attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest lightsaber battle.
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m.
By: Mark C. McGlothlen