PITTSTON TWP. — A sea of fans draped in red and gold leaped to their feet in a frenzy typically reserved for a game-winning goal.
Over on the bench, teammates leaned over to bang their sticks off the board.
It took more than 31 minutes into the first men’s college ice hockey game in King’s — or for that matter, Wilkes-Barre’s — history.
But the Monarchs finally scored.
Freshman forward Cameron Anklewich ripped a shot into the net 11:05 into the second period Friday, feeding a hometown hockey frenzy that had been building from tipoff during the Monarchs’ 6-2 loss to Brockport.
“It was huge,” Anklewich, a freshman forward from Calgary, Alberta. “First goal in school history, it’s going to be one that goes down in the record books. It was one I’m definitely going to remember.”
So will the fans.
It didn’t seem to matter to the standing-room-only crowd of about 500 people who crammed into the tiny Revolution Ice Centre that King’s was trailing by four goals at the time of Anklewich’s goal, and was on its way to a four-goal loss in the school’s inaugural game — less than a minute after Brockport’s Connor Hutchins completed a hat trick.
They roared just as loudly when goalie Jake Tugnutt made two spectacular, back-to-back stops of point-blank Brockport shots with under six minutes remaining in the game, and erupted again when Luciano Bucci scored the second King’s goal with 50 seconds to play to set the final score.
“To us, I don’t think it (the score) did (matter),” said King’s student Maryrose Mauro, a midfielder on the Monarchs’ 2016 MAC championship field hockey team. “I think it’s awesome. They showed us they can do it, and they showed themselves they can do it.”
At the start, the Monarchs showed some anxiety.
Despite 11 stops from Tugnutt in the opening period, the Monarchs allowed three goals and were behind 4-0 by the time Anklewich scored the school’s first.
“I think the first period was a lot of nerves,” King’s coach Stephen Mallaro said. “The starting of history, starting something new, I think the guys were jittery. I think once we scored the first goal, the weight was lifted off.”
After all, the debut of ice hockey at King’s was highly anticipated. That was evident by a crowd that filled all the bleacher seats, flowed above the railing up top and shook the rafters while the parking lot at Revolution that had very few spaces unoccupied just before the game’s start.
“It’s phenomenal,” said John Loyack, the executive vice president of administration at King’s. “We started working on this four years ago. It’s hard to find a place to sit. And we scored!
“So you’ve got to love that.”
Many fans just loved the action.
“I love hockey,” said King’s student Will Cameron, a defensive lineman on the school’s football team. “All the football guys love playing and watching competitive sports. It’s great, especially seeing Anklewich get the first goal in school history. That’s going into the history book. I can look back and say I was right there. “
Some school administrators were pleasantly surprised so many fans — from students to King’s grads to curious Wyoming Valley residents — were right there, too.
“It’s over the top, as far as opening night,” said Janet Mercincavage, the King’s vice president for student affairs. “The crowd is much bigger than we anticipated. It’s our Friends and Families Weekend at the college. I thought that would have spread out many people to other opportunities. But the bulk of the crowd seems to be right here.”
The Monarchs noticed.
“Big time. That’s a lot of fun to play in front of a crowd like that,” Anklewich said. “Even when we’re down 6-1 and score to make it 6-2, they started erupting. That’s got to be something that we vibe off of. That’s momentum. We’ve got to feed off that. As soon as we scored that first goal, things started to change. We’ve got to feed off that crowd.”
With the jitters out of the way, the Monarchs feel they can now feed off each other.
“I think we had 20 freshmen in the lineup tonight,” said Tugnutt, who made 42 saves. “We expected a hard first period. My goal going in was to try to keep my team in position to win. Had a couple tough bounces on the first three (goals). It was really nice to see the student body come out and support the team, and to see the amount of people who came out It was not unnoticed, we tried to give them a little salute at the end. It was fun.
“Not too many people can say they got to start an inaugural game for a team.”