KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Knoxville Ice Bears returned to the Knoxville Civic Coliseum to face the Pensacola Ice Flyers after sweeping their road trip against Macon and Huntsville last weekend. The Ice Bears have won only one home game in four attempts this season. For Knoxville to pick up their second home win of the season, they’d need to play a solid 60-minute game as they have on the road.
The first period was extremely high paced. Both teams were looking to take control early. Pensacola was led by the usual suspects, as Garrett Milan was all over the ice using his speed and skill to create havoc in his offensive zone. Milan had the best shot of the period when he tried to put a backhand through Joseph Murdaca’s five-hole. Murdaca was able to close the door on Milan, which left Milan visibly stunned. The Ice Bears tried to dump the puck in deep and cause chaos in the offensive zone, which they did, but couldn’t turn the chaos into many offensive chances. Lucas Bombardier would get the Ice Bears best shot on goal in the first period during Knoxville’s first power play. Bombardier was able to sneak into the slot for a shot at Chase Perry’s front door, but Pensacola’s defense closed down on Bombardier before he could get a solid shot off. The period would end with a Tanner Froese penalty with no time remaining.
Knoxville opened up the second period on the power play. 17 seconds into the period, Jason Price would find the back of the net for the Ice Bears. When asked about the goal and the power play, Head Coach Jeff Carr said:
“We pulled the guys in and had a set play on the breakout for the power play, they were able to execute, and Price was able to find the back of the net.”
Pensacola would keep pushing and trying to create chances. Matt Ustaski tried to use his size to create chances for the Ice Flyers. Ustaski’s play would help Pensacola have long stints of possession in their offensive zone, but Gehrett Sargis and Stefan Brucato (along with Murdaca) kept Pensacola from finding the back of the net. Pensacola had their first power play of the game during the second period, but Knoxville’s penalty kill was able to smother any opportunities before they could get the puck to Murdaca. Knoxville finished the period leading 1-0.
Pensacola would come out of the gates hot in the third period. Milan was able to cut deep into the offensive zone before taking a hard hit behind the net from Pierre Ouellette, which led to a massive scrum. Jesse Kessler came to Milan’s aid and fought Ouellette. Ouellette would get a two-minute penalty for an illegal check along with the five minutes for fighting. Pensacola would get a chance to tie the game with the power play, but Knoxville had other plans as Bryce Nielsen would score shorthanded and help Knoxville kill the rest of the penalty. The Ice Flyers would keep pushing to try and beat Murdaca. However, their efforts wouldn’t be enough, as Brady Fleurent would seal the game with an empty-net goal. Knoxville would win 3-0, with Murdaca picking up his second shutout in as many games.
The Ice Bears and Ice Flyers will meet for the second game of the series Saturday night in Knoxville. Knoxville will need to continue to play sound team-first hockey if they want to keep their four-game winning streak alive. The Ice Bears will also need their defenders to continue their growth and increasingly solid play while their forwards continue to get deep into the offensive zone and cause problems for Pensacola’s defense. Murdaca will more than likely be between the pipes for the Ice Bears Saturday night, which means the Ice Flyers will need to bring their best game. Pensacola will need to get bodies and pucks to the front of the net so Murdaca doesn’t have the same visibility he did Friday night.
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