Fans happy despite exhibition loss

YOUNGSTOWN -- It seemed like the SteelHounds were making up for their offseason time away from hockey during an exhibition game Friday at the Chevrolet Centre that went into overtime.

The shootout followed a 3-3 tie at the end of the third period. But the SteelHounds weren't able to pull through in the end, losing 4-3 overall.

The team played its only exhibition game against the Dayton Bombers. Tickets were $5 and all seats were general admission.

A Chevrolet Centre spokesperson said they expected about 1,000 people to attend, and figured about that many came, but a ticket count wasn't immediately available.

Some of the fans came just for a chance to see live hockey.

Andy Phillips, 24, came to Younstown from Akron to see the SteelHounds play. He wore one of the green jerseys sold after the St. Patrick's Day game in the SteelHounds' first season.

"I came a couple of times last year and liked it so much I bought season tickets," Phillips said.

He used to go to Cleveland to see the Barons, but "after they left, I had to resort to this," Phillips said.

Bill and Kristy Brooks were other out-of-towners at the Chevy Centre Friday. Residents of Montville, near Chardon, they drove about 70 miles for Friday's game.

"We love hockey. We moved here from Colorado and we used to watch the Avalanche play there," Bill Brooks said.

They came to several SteelHounds games last year, and plan on attending more in the future, citing the low ticket costs and better seating than at most National Hockey League face-offs as reasons.

But not everyone drove far, or even came just for the sport.

Gene Rhodes, of Warren, attended with his sons and two grandsons. Rhodes said he came to a couple of games last year, but doesn't come to Youngstown very much. Not a big hockey fan, Rhodes said he came to the game for entertainment.

Youngstown's Bill Flickinger came to the Chevy for the first time on Friday.

"I wanted to see the arena and see how it looked," Flickinger said. "It's nice. I couldn't believe that it's this nice."

Flickinger said he plans to come back to the arena several more times this year.

Chevy Executive Director Matt Hufnagel said he was excited to get the season started with the exhibition game.

"For us, this is really the kickoff event for the entire season. We have a really full slate of events this year -- there's the SteelHounds, there's concerts and family shows," Hufnagel said.

Hufnagel was also excited about the new appearance of the centre, with the new nameplate signs installed and lit earlier Friday.

"It's nice now, it really looks different. You can tell what it is," Hufnagel said. "They do a lot for the appearance of the building."

The signs, three on the exterior and one above each scoreboard that read "Chevrolet Centre," were lit for the first time publicly in a dedication ceremony before the game began.

Promoting one of the next events at the Chevrolet Centre was local boxer Kelly Pavlik, who is scheduled to box at the Chevy Nov. 2. Pavlik signed autographs for fans during the game.

The Youngstown SteelHounds begin their regular season on Oct. 20; their home opener is set for Oct. 27.

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