Savannah Ghost Pirates hockey wins first home game at Enmarket Arena

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Sold-out crowd for a long-awaited game. The Ghost Pirates win 5-1.

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Bob Ohrablo is a hockey guy through and through. He was part of a starter group for minor hockey teams in Orlando and Jacksonville. Despite a deep and unwavering love of sport, he was not looking for a third team.

Then he got a phone call, did some research, had a few meetings and the next thing he knew he was up to his eyebrows launching what would become the Savannah Ghost Pirates.

On Saturday night, this team took to the ice in Savannah for the first time with nearly 7,000 Savannahians screaming and waving green glow sticks urging them to Enmarket Arena. From the haunting pregame introductions to the final horn, a two-year show for Ohrablo has exceeded expectations.

“That atmosphere was amazing,” Ghost Pirates goaltender Isaiah Saville said. “We really hope it stays that way. We continued to feed off of that and it was a great environment. Really fun to play.

Savannah hockey fans released 20 years of pent up energy for Game 1. Hockey has been for the city since 1999, when crowds first flocked to a collegiate club hockey tournament held at the Savannah Civic Center. Repeated efforts to bring a minor league team to Savannah failed over the next two decades.

Savannah attorney Joe Steffen has been one of those who have been pushing hockey in Savannah for years. Before moving to Savannah, he owned an ECHL hockey team in Roanoke, Virginia. But was left behind when he came to Savannah.

Like many others, Steffen had the hockey bug, but for 20 years it was a tough sell.

“We just couldn’t make it work,” Steffen said. “The arena was not made for that and the interest was not there at that time. What is happening now is incredible.

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Ghost Pirates gets a spooky welcome

Steffen said he got involved with the Ghost Pirates after hearing about a meeting about a hockey team coming to Savannah. Out of curiosity, he attended and the juice started flowing. At the end of the day, he was a shareholder in Ghost Pirates.

“I spoke to Bob and Andy (team owner Andy Kaufmann) and we knew some of the same people,” Steffen said. “They invited me to be a part of it. The only regret I have is that I wish I had bought more than I did.

The response to Ghost Pirates has been chilling.

They fixed ECHL record for subscriptions sold and they can’t get the goods in stock fast enough. Lines to enter the merchandise store at Saturday night’s home opener with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits were long and steady.

“We weren’t really looking (to create a new team),” said Ohrablo, president of the Ghost Pirates and Jacksonville Icemen. “We have been contacted by the league (ECHL) to take a look at Savannah.

“We knew the people and we decided to go by car and listen to what they had to say. That night, driving back to Jacksonville, we just decided that we were going to start negotiating a lease and see if we could work this out. We did it and here we are.

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A win on opening night

‘Here we are’ was the home opener on Saturday night for the Ghost Pirates who, after a scoreless first period, dominated the next two periods to beat the Swamp Rabbits 5-1 and take the top spot in the division. south of ECHL.

The next game for the Ghost Pirates (5-1) is Thursday night at home against defending Kelly Cup champion Florida Everblades. The following night they will host the South Carolina Stingrays.

Ohrablo and Steffen were two of the happiest people in the Enmarket Arena when Spencer Naas scored the first home goal in Ghost Pirates history with 16:19 left in the period. The crowd erupted as they let out a nearly two-year-old roar.

He got stronger 72 seconds later when Daniel D’Amato scored. Pat Guay, who now leads ECHL rookies with 10 points, scored at 11:20. Goaltender Isaiah Saville made 33 saves in his debut this season.

Brandon Estes scored two goals for the Ghost Pirates while Tristan Thompson had two assists. D’Amato, Vincent Marleau, Marshall Moise and Brent Pedersen also got assists.

“It’s pretty cool, to be honest with you,” Naas, who played in Sweden the previous two years, said of Enmarket Arena’s first ever goal. “It’s something I would have been quite happy with if someone got it, but I was pretty happy to have it.

“That’s funny. I’ll remember that one for a while.

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Coach Rick Bennett, who took two college teams to the NCAA Division I Frozen Four and won a national championship in 2014, has seen and experienced the impact a crowd can have on a team’s game. .

He, along with Naas and Saville, all said the crowd was a major factor and they fed off his energy.

“What we’re seeing is way beyond my expectations for this market,” Steffen said. “As a Las Vegas affiliate, they sent us some really good players. You have to give Bob credit for that.

“People have waited a long time for this. The college hockey tournament we have here is a good thing, but people who have been in it will recognize the sport, but not the speed and physique. These guys are one step ahead of them.

The importance and value of Ghost Pirates’ affiliation with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights should not be underestimated.

“I’m really proud of what Vegas has done for us,” said Ohrablo, whose Jacksonville team is affiliated with the New York Rangers. “I said in Las Vegas that this was a special startup, that the people of Savannah welcomed us with open arms and they heard it.

“They were amazing in getting us players and giving us the support we needed to make sure we weren’t crippled. I’m so proud of the support Savannah has given us and now it’s up to us to decide. We are a first-place team, but there is still a long way to go.

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Raymond I. Langston