As the Vegas Golden Knights' affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, took the ice for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Diego Gulls, fans from Vegas filed into Pechanga Arena to support the Wolves.
San Diego and Las Vegas are separated by a five-hour trip down I-15 or a brief flight into San Diego International Airport. For dedicated Golden Knights fans, the 331-mile journey to the coast was worth it to catch some of the organization's top prospects.
Golden Knights hats and jerseys were scattered through the crowd at Pechanga Arena and the fans sprung to their feet when the Wolves scored the game's first goal. Chicago wound up on the losing end of a 3-2 game, but passionate supporters of the Golden Knights caught early glimpses of some of the franchise's young stars.
"I flew out to meet my brother for his birthday and it worked out perfectly to catch the Wolves," said Golden Knights season ticket member Zachary Peterson. "I'm excited to see guys like Glass and Hague. I saw them at Development Camp last year and throughout the preseason so it's exciting to see them again."
Hockey fans of all ages in Vegas have taken to the Golden Knights regardless of their previous NHL allegiances. For VGK fan Robert Collins, driving out to the west coast to see the Wolves gave him a chance to visit California where he had lived for years before moving to Vegas.
"We've been hockey fans forever," Collins said. "We used to live in LA but now that the Golden Knights are in Vegas, we're huge fans."
The opportunity to see a hockey game while also scouting future Golden Knights players was exciting for Robert D'Ambra who drove out to San Diego to catch the action. After Vegas' season came to an end in the first round of the playoffs, D'Ambra said he'd been missing hockey and it was a no-brainer to check out the Wolves.
"We drove out the morning of the game," D'Ambra said. "I've been following the Wolves and, now that they're deep in the playoffs, I'm following them full-time."
D'Ambra said that watching the game kept him engaged with hockey during the Golden Knights' offseason. He was excited to see the approval of the team's project to build a new hockey facility in Henderson because it will allow him to become more involved in hockey.
"They're building the practice facility in Henderson now, so I'll be able to be around the ice more than ever," said D'Ambra.