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Breaking down Keegan Kolesar’s first NHL fight



Vegas Golden Knights Colorado Avalanche
Keegan Kolesar had his first NHL fight Tuesday night, and did pretty good.

Eh, who cares about the Vegas Golden Knights losing. There will be other games.

Marc-Andre Fleury gave up three goals? He’s still one of the early favorites for the Vezina Trophy – we are at the quarter-pole of the season, so it’s a viable topic.

Lake Tahoe? We can discuss that another time.

I want to talk about Keegan Kolesar dropping the gloves and squaring up with Dennis Gilbert early in the first period of Tuesday night’s game.

Though he mixed it up during an exhibition game in 2019, with Arizona’s Christian Fischer, it was Kolesar’s first official NHL fight.

It certainly wasn’t his first hockey fight, as Hockey Fights has him down for 13 AHL fights, and 27 more in the WHL.

Kolesar played for the Chicago Wolves and Gilbert spent some time with the Rockford IceHogs.

The two played in the same game on Nov. 23, 2018, when Kolesar got the best of Hunter Fejes with four or five overhand rights. It was a wild game won by the Wolves, 7-2, during which there were goals from a couple of familiar names in Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague.

Something fun I found with Gilbert, a somewhat seasoned fighter from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, is he actually threw blows with current teammate Gabriel Landeskog, back on Dec. 21, 2019.

After watching some of Gilbert’s fights at Hockey Fights, it’s no surprise he instigated Tuesday’s scrap with Kolesar, who had no problem answering the bell.

After racing behind the net in the offensive zone, Gilbert put a little something behind the shove that sent Kolesar into the boards.

As the two moved in front of Philip Grubauer, it appeared Kolesar returned the favor with a harmless nudge as he skated toward the blue line. Gilbert certainly said something, because before the whistle you can see Kolesar look over his right shoulder and detour back to Colorado’s 24-year-old defenseman.

Kolesar, who is will be 24 in April, circled back to Gilbert and with the television camera moving the opposite direction, all we could see are sticks and gloves hit the ice.

“We’ve got a fight here though,” Golden Knights broadcaster Dave Goucher announced, as the cameras zoomed in.

From a distance, you can see the 6-foot-2 enforcers immediately start throwing blows while DJ Joe Green cued up Mary Wells’ “My Guy” from his booth high atop T-Mobile Arena.

From a tactical standpoint, you have to appreciate the fact Kolesar was able to use his right hand to snatch Gilbert’s helmet from his head while keeping ahold of the Avalanche jersey with his left hand and maintaining his elbow in tight to stay grounded on his skates.

Because of the angle, Gilbert took, it was hard for Kolesar to land what appeared to be five punches thrown overall – one from a long-distance view, and four more when we got the up-close view.

After removing the helmet, Kolesar took a quick shot with an overhand right, but Gilbert was able to land two quick rights of his own. Kolesar got a couple of quick left jabs in while holding the jersey.

But Gilbert also did a good job of holding Kolesar’s jersey high enough that he was able to land a couple of jabs, one of them setting up a beauty of a right-hand square in the face. At that point I would have given Gilbert the round, 10-9; but then he turned his back into Kolesar, rather than continuing to stand toe-to-toe.

I know the idea is to land punches, and not get hit, but Gilbert was the instigator with the initial shove into the boards. And again, he clearly said something to trigger Kolesar at the blue line, causing him to turn around. Now you’re going to turn your back? Upon further review, it was a powerful overhand right that probably stunned Gilbert in the first place, causing him to duck and turn away.

Gilbert landed solid shots, but Kolesar took them, stayed composed, landed quality punches of his own, and afterward gave a complimentary tap to the back to say, “Hey, good fight.”

From start to finish – helmet, jersey, punches, left jabs, overhand right, and keeping his jaw in the game – Kolesar gets Round 1.

Round 2 in Lake Tahoe anyone?