KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Knoxville Ice Bears returned to the Knoxville Civic Coliseum ice Saturday night to face off against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs once again. Knoxville beat the Rail Yard Dawgs 5-2 Friday night in Knoxville. Roanoke would need to find another level of their game if they wanted to compete Saturday night.
The first period was all Roanoke. Knoxville played uninspired and let Roanoke inflict their will. The Rail Yard Dawgs were heavy on the forecheck and dominated the offensive zone for most of the first period. Goalie Joseph Murdaca kept Knoxville in the game, shutting down a lot of high-pressure chances for Roanoke. However, former Ice Bear Marcus Ortiz finally got Roanoke on the board late in the first by getting to the front of the net and beating Murdaca. Roanoke carried a 1-0 lead into the second period.
Knoxville came out and tied the game to start the second as Stefan Brucato scored just 23 seconds into the period. The Ice Bears were able to get their offense and forecheck going which created some good chances early in the period. However, what was really working for the Ice Bears was their neutral zone defense. Knoxville started to close gaps and shrink the ice which lead to turnovers. Scott Cuthrell turned one of the turnovers into Knoxville’s second goal of the game.
Roanoke player Brantley Sherwood thought Cuthrell was offside when entering the zone and his passionate plea to the officials earned him a 10-minute misconduct for verbal abuse of officials. Roanoke wouldn’t let the call effect them, though, as Austin Daae would answer the Cuthrell goal shortly after to tie the game. Knoxville would answer the bell with a goal of their own from Anthony McVeigh to retake the lead, 3-2. Knoxville controlled the rest of the second period with their neutral zone trap and took their 3-2 into the third.
The third period was full of physicality and solid hockey. Roanoke continued their physical play and Knoxville matched it. The Ice Bears defense kept Roanoke in check and created offense for the Ice Bears but Knoxville didn’t have enough energy in the tank to capitalize on their defense. Late in the third period, Roanoke started to create chances. Eventually, Ortiz would get his second goal of the night to tie the game at 3-3 at the 13:05 mark. Both teams played a physical yet conservative game for the rest of the period that lead to overtime.
Overtime was up and down early, with Henry Dill and Murdaca stopping high-quality chances. Late in the overtime, Brad Riccardi would impede a Lucas Bombardier forecheck for a puck and get called for interference with 1:10 left in overtime. With 19 seconds left in overtime, Josh Pietrantonio put a pass cross-crease pass from Jason Price into the open net to give Knoxville the 4-3 win. In the post-game celebration, Roanoke’s Jake Schultz ran into Murdaca, causing a meeting between the teams that only lead to a few words before being separated.
When asked about his teams slow start but ability to find a way to win, Knoxville Head Coach Jeff Carr said:
“I think we’re tired. I hate saying it and I don’t want to use this often. We pride ourselves on being in shape, but this season has been a grind. With four games in five days, come back, I ran them through a pretty brisk practice the following day, that’s probably a little bit on me and you finish out with Roanoke.
“That team, I give Dan (Bremner) so much credit. those guys could have easily got four points in these last two nights. They brought it and somehow we found a way. with this team, it’s a growing trend of just gutting it out.”
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