KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Knoxville Ice Bears returned to Knoxville Civic Coliseum Friday night to take on the Fayetteville Marksmen. Knoxville is coming off of a three-game weekend with the Quad City Storm in which they lost two of three. For Knoxville to find success against the Marksmen, they’ll need to stop the self-inflicted mistakes.
Fayetteville came out of the locker room hot in the first period. The Marksmen were able to play tough in the neutral zone and stifle most of Knoxville’s offensive creativity. Because of this, Fayetteville was able to create plenty of odd-man rushes and put shots on Joseph Murdaca’s net.
Midway through the period, Stefan Brucato was able to cut through Fayetteville’s defense and draw a tripping penalty. However, Knoxville squandered their power play by coughing up the puck and not being crisp with their passes. Late in the power play, Max Cook was able to score short-handed and give Fayetteville a 1-0 lead.
With 10 minutes left in the first, Knoxville would start to find their legs and create chances while also trying to ramp up their physicality. At the 16:19 mark, Dwyer Tschantz would drop the gloves with Josh Victor in a spirited tilt at center ice. Lucas Bombardier and Nick LeSage would join the festivities by getting into a shoving match of their own before going to the penalty box. Fayetteville would use the four-on-four play to once again enforce their will, as Jarret Kup would score his first goal as a Marksmen. Fayetteville would carry a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Knoxville would show up to play early in the second period, cycling the puck and creating chances around Blake Wojtala’s crease. However, Fayetteville’s defense was cleaning up the plays before Knoxville could convert. Donald Olivieri gave Fayetteville their third goal of the game when he blasted a puck from the blue line past Murdaca.
Knoxville would answer the bell, continuing to create chances in front of the net. Josh Pietrantonio would reap the benefits, beating Wojtala on a wrap around shot. However, Knoxville would once again have a self-inflicted wound, leaving Olivieri open in the slot. Olivieri made Knoxville pay with his second goal of the game and Fayetteville’s fourth. Knoxville would continue to push the pace and play their game, but couldn’t break through during the second period and would head into the locker room down 4-1.
The Ice Bears dominated play in the third by using their speed and hard forecheck to give Fayetteville problems. Cooper Jones was able to get Knoxville’s second goal of the game when he came up in the rush and put home a pass from Anthony McVeigh. Knoxville continued to up the pace and physicality of the game which would lead to more chances for the Ice Bears.
Alex Carlson injected energy into his team when he went after Shane Bednard for a hard hit on a Knoxville forward. In the scuffle, Cook would come off of the Fayetteville bench and antagonize Carlson. For his trouble, Cook earned a game misconduct. The Ice Bears would continue their onslaught, and Bombardier would get an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left, but Fayetteville would hold on to win 4-3.
Knoxville once again dug themselves a hole too deep to get out of. When asked about the slow start and what they can build off of from the third period, Ice Bears Head Coach Jeff Carr said:
“At the end of the day, it’s just turnovers. it’s not the style of play or care factor — it’s been that at times — but it’s just turnovers. We just turn the puck over nonstop against teams early in games. We can’t get our footing, and then we have to have this miraculous push back to have games tight. We gave up 12 shots in 10 minutes and then 12 shots in 50 minutes. you’re gonna win a ton of games if you flip that and reverse it.”
Knoxville won’t have to wait long to get a chance to right the ship as they play the Macon Mayhem in Macon on Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST.
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