KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Knoxville Ice Bears returned to the Civic Coliseum Saturday night to take on the Fayetteville Marksmen. Knoxville would be looking to rebound after a final minute loss to the Marksmen on Friday night in Fayetteville. The Ice Bears would need to bring their best game if they wanted to beat Fayetteville Saturday night.
Knoxville opened up the first by getting their legs going and attacking hard on the forecheck. The choice to do this led to a lot of great opportunities for the Ice Bears. However, it gave Fayetteville the opportunity to attack off of mistakes. Brian Bowen would do just that, as Fayetteville stole the puck in the neutral zone and split the Ice Bears defense before finding the back of the net. The Ice Bears would continue to get shots on net, but Blake Wojtala was stopping everything in sight. Fayetteville would once again find the back of the net as Tim Kielich would slide to the front of the net and scored from point-blank. The Marksmen would carry a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Ice Bears would make a goalie change to start the second period as Michael Santaguida would take over in net for Hayden Stewart. Knoxville turned up their intensity to start the period, but their momentum would be stifled after a tripping call put Fayetteville on the power play, which ultimately led to a Frankie Melton goal.
After the goal, Knoxville would pick up from where they left off, sustaining offensive zone time that led to great shots on goal, but Fayetteville would continue to hold on. However, Knoxville would get their first power play of the game and Ricky Kramer would cash in on the scoreboard almost instantaneously. Fayetteville would hit back as any good team does. Melton would score on a beautiful backhand shot that went top-shelf. Knoxville would try to storm back, but they couldn’t find any success. Fayetteville would lead 4-1 after two periods of play.
Jacob Benson would beat Wojtala on a top-shelf snipe 55 seconds into the third period to get Knoxville within two goals. The Ice Bears would turn the game into a track meet, creating a ton of chances, but none of them would find the back of the net. Alec Marsh would give Fayetteville an insurance goal to finish off the game. Fayetteville would win 5-2 despite being outshot 56-33.
When asked about the frustration a game like tonight can bring, Knoxville Head Coach Jeff Carr said:
”It is (frustrating) if we have 19 shots and we just don’t show up. maybe you can get a little more disconnected at the pro level and make some cuts or trades. It just doesn’t work. you’ve got a group that played a three-in-three after no break, a beyond decimated lineup, and three different goalies.
“We are fighting it right now, and if we didn’t have 50 some shots, if we didn’t have the leadership we have and the group we have, it’d be even more frustrating. but if you look long term at the pieces we have and the group we have, We still have a lot of promise in this room.”
Knoxville is on their first three-game losing streak of the season. The Ice Bears will have a chance to right the ship on Tuesday night when the Macon Mayhem come to town. Puck drops for the New Year’s Eve game at 6:05pm EST.
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