KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Ice Bears took to the Knoxville Civic Coliseum ice Thursday night to face off against the Birmingham Bulls for the first time this season. Knoxville was coming off a 4-1 road win in Fayetteville against the Marksmen, while Birmingham is looking to gain some traction after they beat Roanoke 3-2 last Saturday.
The Ice Bears were the team to jump out to a hot start in the first period. Bryce Nielsen started a four-goal onslaught Ice Bears in the opening period, finding the back of the net for the Ice Bears’ only power-play goal of the night at 3:36 of the first period. Knoxville wouldn’t let Birmingham catch their breath as they kept pushing the pace and creating chances. Just a little over two minutes later Jacob Benson would keep the scoring going when he put home a pass from Riley Christensen.
After the second goal, Birmingham tried to slow down the Ice Bears by clogging up the neutral zone, but even this strategy failed. Stefan Brucato kept the Ice Bears rolling as he beat Brody Claeys for Knoxville’s third goal of the period at 11:59 of the opening period. The onslaught ended 62 seconds later, as Gehrett Sargis would score and chase Claeys from the game. After Artt Brey came into the game, Birmingham was able to stop the bleeding for the time being and even tried to turn the tide of the game. Jacob Barber dropped the gloves with Alex Carlson and while Carlson would get the better of the exchange, Birmingham seemed to be galvanized by the fight. The Bulls were able to find a balance to their game and keep Knoxville from scoring the rest of the period.
Knoxville would keep rolling in the second period. Charlie Granath tipped a pass from Scott Cuthrell up and over Brey to expand Knoxville’s lead to 5-0 just 14 seconds into the period. Thereafter, the game would take a physical turn as the but for the most part, the peace was kept on the ice. Despite only scoring the one goal, Knoxville would get multiple chances on Brey in the period, but he was a brick wall between the pipes.
In the third period, both teams would continue their physical play, but Birmingham had no answer for the Cuthrell line, which continued to create optimal scoring chances. Both Cuthrell and Lionel Mauron would score in the third period to wrap up the scoring at 7-0.
When asked about what made Knoxville’s offense go, Cuthrell said: “We were using each other. We were five feet away from everybody supporting the puck. It makes it easy to go up and create chances when you got teammates helping you out.”
Every member of the Cuthrell/Brucato/Mauron line found the back of the net and tallied an assist.
After the game, Mauron commented on what makes their line work so well together: “(Stefan) Brucato is probably one of the best playmakers in the league. Scott (cuthrell) is a really fast player that can take over the entire ice. They make my job easy. I just try to make plays and shoot the puck.”
Not to go unnoticed in the win, Ice Bears netminder Joseph Murdaca picked up his third shutout of the season. He leads all SPHL netminders with a 1.39 goals against average, a .957 save percentage, and three shutouts.
The 7-0 loss for the Bulls is tied their worst defeat since joining the SPHL. They also lost 7-0 to Macon at home on April 6, 2017.
Knoxville will hit the road for another match up with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs on Saturday.
Ice Bears head coach Jeff Carr said the loss on November 2 could serve as revenge for the team. “I think there should be a bad taste in our mouth. Roanoke came into a sold out building and beat us 7-4. We need to make amends. We didn’t win the game tonight one minute in or because we had a solid second period. We won because we played a 60-minute hockey game and that’s what we have to do in Roanoke.”
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