Much like their brethren of the National Hockey League, the Henderson Silver Knights are winners of their inaugural game.
Unlike that October night in Dallas four years ago, there were no fans at Orleans Arena on this Saturday evening. It would normally be a packed house near the Strip, packed with fans excited to cheer on their new minor-league hockey team.
A win will suffice. Danny O’Regan had two goals and an assist, while Logan Thompson made 29 saves in a 5-2 win for the Silver Knights; their first as a franchise and first for coach Manny Viveiros.
“It’s been a long time coming for a lot of the players,” Viveiros said. “I thought it was a pretty good hockey game. It was pretty wide-open; I’m sure both staffs weren’t all completely happy with that. A lot of really good things I saw tonight.”
It had already been a wild time for Viveiros and his staff leading up to their AHL debut. Viveiros was behind an NHL bench, filling in for Vegas Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer on Jan. 26, before he could even lead the Silver Knights ahead of their debut.
It got to the point where former Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, and captain Patrick Brown, were the coaches while Viveiros and assistants Joel Ward and Jamie Heward watched from up top at Lifeguard Arena.
What the Silver Knights produced in return was a solid effort after falling behind 2-1 in the second period. Jake Leschyshyn scored the first goal in team history 1:41 into the second period, tying it 1-1. Daniel Brickley had scored the game’s first goal for Ontario, assisted by this year’s No. 2 overall pick, Quinton Byfield.
Henderson rattled off four unanswered goals after Rasmus Kupari scored 43 seconds after Leshcyshyn’s goal. Jake Bischoff tied it 2-2 at 4:29 of the second period, and then Dylan Sikura made it 3-2 at 13:05 of the middle period.
“I think everyone was tense off the start,” Leschyshyn said. “They came out with a good start, so you’ve got to respect that and match that. After we saw what they were bringing, we matched it and took it to another level.”
O’Regan made it 4-2 with 1:53 remaining after beating Matthew Villalta top shelf on a 2-on-1. To his left was Peyton Krebs, the Golden Knights’ first-round pick in 2019. Krebs, who is with the AHL club while awaiting word on the WHL’s upcoming season, recorded his first professional point with the assist on the goal. Former Hobey Baker finalist Jack Dugan also had an assist in his pro debut.
Thompson made key saves to maintain the Henderson lead, including a diving blocker save going from left to right less than two minutes into the third. The former ECHL goalie had impressed during training camp and Viveiros felt his netminder was a calming presence when in need.
“He made some important saves for us at the right time,” Viveiros said. “We got ourselves into trouble with penalties in the third period. Your best penalty killer, more often than not, is your goaltender.”
Henderson went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
The Silver Knights will wrap up their two-game set against the Reign on Monday at 5 p.m.