Photo by Don Nelson
All eyes were on the puck at Saturday’s inagurual Apple Puck game between club hockey teams from UW and WSU.

By Don Nelson

The Winthrop Rink’s first Apple Puck ice hockey game, a match between club teams from the University of Washington and Washington State University, got a warm reception Saturday night (Feb. 18).

UW won the regulation-time game, 8-0, and most of the action was on the Cougars’ defensive end. But the teams’ competitiveness from start to finish kept hundreds of fans engaged — those outside in the relatively mild temperatures, and those watching through the big windows of the rink building’s second floor.

Jill Calvert, president of the nonprofit organization that operates the rink for its owner, the Town of Winthrop, said more than 350 spectators showed up for the game. Other observers eyeballed even bigger crowd totals.

Hockey fans ringed the rink and stood several people deep on the open north side of the facility, risking encounters with pucks that might rapidly escape the arena (none did). UW and WSU fan bases were both loudly represented. Local allegiances could not be easily identified other than by a school-specific garment.

Dave Dewbry, the rink’s ice maintenance manager, further entertained the crowds between periods as he piloted the Zamboni machine around the rink wearing a variety of wild costumes and wigs.

The teams were vying for the Apple Puck prize — a papier-mache trophy fashioned by rink staffer Raven Odion. After the game, UW players and fans passed it around (not nearly as heavy as the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup, it seems), posing for photographs.

For Saturday night’s game, the rink rolled out brand new, bright-red goals. It was also a rare occasion for which all of the rink’s 28 overhead lights were turned on to light the action. For most evening recreational skating sessions, only a handful of the rink’s lights are on so as not to bother nearby residents.

The Cougars and Huskies were represented by student club teams, and both play in the Pac-8 conference, which includes all the Pac-12 schools except Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Oregon State University. The teams are required to raise their own funds for gear, travel and participation in the league.

In the 2016-17 club hockey season, the Huskies won the championship I-5 Cup over the University of Oregon for the 11th time, and finished second to league champion UCLA in the Pac-8 tournament. Washington finished with a record of 23-8-1-1 including the overtime loss to UCLA in the championship game.

During the regular season, the UW defeated WSU four times. The Cougars came into the Apple Puck game with only a few substitutes on its bench so could not change shifts as effectively as the Huskies. Nonetheless, WSU played hard-nosed hockey throughout. Washington led 4-0 after the first period, and added two goals in each of the second and third periods.