PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Pensacola Ice Flyers closed out the 2019 portion of their 2019-20 schedule with a 4-2 win over the visiting Birmingham Bulls on Saturday night, thanks to four different goal scorers and a 20-save performance by Jake Kupsky.
The first period was filled with good defense on both sides of the puck, and after 20 minutes, the two teams only combined for 12 shots total. Oddly enough, despite all the blocked shots and cut off shooting lanes, a total of three goals were scored in the period. Birmingham opened the scoring 10:11 into the period when Aaron Huffnagle got the Bulls on the board with a flukey attempt that found its way into the back of the net. Huffnagle tried to make a move and shoot the puck just inside the puck to Kupsky’s left. Kupsky followed him to shut off that angle, but Huffnagle wasn’t able to get a shot off and the puck slid between Kupsky’s legs.
“Obviously I should probably have that one back, but you just got to flush that and move on because it was still early in the game,” remarked Kupsky postgame.
Ryan Marcuz evened things up at one when he ripped a laser on a rebound that found its way into the Ice Flyers’ left wing faceoff circle. Matt Ustaski and Tyler Andrews got credit for the assists on Marcuz’s first goal of the season. Just over two minutes later, Ustaski got a goal to go with his assist to put the Ice Flyers in the lead with 4:44 left in the opening frame. Marcuz and Blake Young assisted on the tally.
The Ice Flyers had some chances in the second period, but the middle frame was won by the Bulls. Birmingham was finally able to cash in and tie the game back up while the Bulls were on a power play, as Jacob Barber put the puck over Kupsky’s shoulder with 44.5 seconds left in period.
The Ice Flyers wasted no time coming out of the second intermission and regained the lead just 30 seconds after being back on the ice. With Pensacola buzzing in their offensive zone, Michael Ederer scored his fourth goal of the season and what would ultimately prove to be the game-winning goal. Brett D’Andrea and Garrett Milan picked up the assists.
When asked postgame about Ederer’s goal, Ice Flyers head coach Rod Aldoff said:
“Those are always good early in a period, especially in that situation with a tie game.”
He continued about Ederer’s goal negating any momentum the Bulls would have had from Baber’s goal late in the second:
“yeah, it definitely puts a little downer on their side, gives us a bump up, and it was a huge goal at a crucial time.”
Once the puck was dropped again, the Ice Flyers continued the pressure getting great chance after great chance for what felt like an eternity, but Birmingham goalie Stephen Klein was doing all he could to keep his team in the game. The Bulls started an attempt to claw back into the game when the Ice Flyers took the first of two penalties in a just over a four-minute span. Birmingham was unable to capitalize when Marcuz sat for slashing or while Sam Williams was in the box for hooking. The Bulls wound up being unsuccessful on all seven of their power play opportunities.
With Klein on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Birmingham continued to pressure the Ice Flyers, but Pensacola seemed equal to the task. Pucks that did make their way to Kupsky were easily controlled. The Ice Flyers made multiple attempts to score on the empty net at the south end of the Pensacola Bay Center before Tanner Froese fired off a well-placed attempt right down the middle of the rink. A Birmingham player dove to divert the puck but only managed to get a slight touch on the puck. The puck began to flutter but it was not enough to divert the path and the puck crossed the goal line with 3.1 seconds left in the game.
The Ice Flyers closed out the year with wins in five of their last six games and now sit in sole possession of second place in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings. They’ll start 2020 on the road for the first half of a home-and-home with Macon on Friday before the back half in Pensacola on Saturday.
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