MOLINE, Ill. — The Quad City Storm finally faced a team outside of Illinois or Indiana this season, facing off against the Knoxville Ice Bears of Tennessee on Friday night. The visiting Ice Bears defeated the Storm 6-5 in overtime, in a game that was both physical and variable.
“I think both teams had a slow start,” said Storm assistant coach Drew Otten, “and were fighting one another to kind of establish a forecheck and get things going. It was kind of a slow-pace game off the get-go, and you know, we just let them stay in the game I think the entire 60 minutes. And it turned out in the end that they wanted it more than us.”
The Storm started the scoring with two goals in the first ten minutes of the game, with Mathias Ahman scoring the first goal of the night in his first game back at Vibrant Arena this season. This goal came during a stretch of three-on-three hockey, as two players from each team had entered the penalty box within a 36 second span. Dillon Fournier and Connor Fries picked up the assists on that tally, and Fournier would assist with the next goal a few minutes later as well. Patrick Gazich scored his first professional goal to give the Storm the 2-0 lead midway through the first period. Marcus Ortiz in his second game back with the Storm this season added his second assist of the season, though he had originally been credited with the goal.
The Ice Bears then began their comeback, scoring their first goal of the night while on the power play, thanks to Bailey Conger, with just over five minutes remaining in the first period. The rest of the first period was uneventful, save for a few minor scrums that didn’t result in penalties. The second period was much more action-packed, however.
Rex Moe tied the game at 1:50 of the second period, Colton Fletcher earning the lone assist. Less than two minutes later, Brady Fleurent gave Knoxville their first lead of the night with help from Dean Balsamo and Sacha Roy. Storm forward Logan Nelson then knotted the score at three apiece at 4:46 of the second period, Cole Golka and Trevor Momot assisting to create a trio of goals scored in the first five minutes of the middle frame.
Tempers began to boil over, and at a little over a minute past the midway point of the game, Tommy Tsicos dropped the gloves with Eliot St-Pierre. Tsicos was also given a two-minute penalty for instigating the fight that took place in front of the benches, putting the Storm on a penalty kill. The kill was a success for the Storm, as Michael Moran scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal on a breakaway with just a few seconds remaining on the penalty kill. Moran’s goal put the Storm ahead by one goal, though the lead didn’t last long.
“We’ve kind of been in a slump right now of playing you know 10, 15 minutes out of a 60-minute game, and we just gotta find a way to have a certain, you know guys step up and play a full 60, you know the whole team. I don’t think we’ve done that since the first week of the season,” said Otten.
Just a hair under two minutes later, the score was tied up once again, Balsamo putting his name on the scoresheet for a goal this time.
The Storm had two power plays in quick succession at the beginning of the third period but were unable to capitalize on either. Nelson scored his second of the night just over midway through the final frame, but four minutes later the score was evened once again thanks to Conger’s second goal of the night. The Storm were forced to go short-handed to end regulation, as Taylor Pryce was called for roughing with under two minutes remaining in the game. The Ice Bears then had 30 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey after Filip Virgili was given a double minor for high-sticking with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Storm looked to be killing the extended penalty in the overtime period, but with just a few seconds remaining before Virgili was set to return to the ice, the visitors scored. Fleurent scored his second goal of the night to win the game for his team, with Kyler Matthews and Ryan Devine assisting.
“I think we’ve got to do a better job of getting pucks to the net, you know. We’re passing up shots in high-percentage shooting areas to try and make a pretty play rather than just, you know. We saw tonight, I mean we got the puck on the net, [Stead] gave up rebounds and we capitalized on it, and I don’t understand why we can’t do that. We see that it works and we still try to kind of be too pretty instead of just playing old-fashioned hockey and shooting the puck on net, any shots a good shot, and drive the net. And I think we’ve struggled in the last couple of games in doing so,” said Otten.
The two teams will take the ice again on Saturday at Vibrant Arena at The MARK, with puck drop set for 7:10 PM for John Deere Night.
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