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Shoot-out for Storm Takes Weekend Series

#SPHL | The @QuadCityStorm looked to salt all their cares away Sunday against the @PColaIceFlyers, but the visitors were the pop top on their beach. @FPHStorm has more from Margarita Day in Moline:

Shoot-out for Storm Takes Weekend Series

MOLINE, Ill. – Margaritaville Day was a sunny afternoon for the Quad City Storm, as they won the weekend series against the Pensacola Ice Flyers with a 5-4 shootout win on Sunday. It was the second night in a row that the Storm couldn’t finish the job in regulation, but with the win, the Illinois-based team is now only two points out of eighth place and a playoff berth. 

Quad City started off strong, opening the scoring at 3:32 of the first period, thanks to Eliott St-Pierre’s first goal of the season. It was only the Storm’s second shot on goal of the game but the first goal, thanks to assists by Mike Moran and Taylor Pryce. The Storm then had nearly four minutes straight of power-play time, as a cross-checking call was followed by a too many men on the ice bench minor with only six seconds left on the first penalty. Ultimately, the Storm could not capitalize on the man advantage, despite having a few good opportunities. The puck handling for the Storm wasn’t as crisp as Saturday’s show, but it was a three-in-four for both teams and a quick turnaround from Saturday night’s contest. 

The Storm took their first penalty shortly after Pensacola came off their penalty kill, which they killed off without issue. However, the next penalty was more difficult for the home team. With roughly two-and-a-half minutes left in the opening frame, the Storm was guilty of skating too many players at once. Going up against the league-leading Pensacola power-play unit, it was only a matter of time before it struck. Jason Price tied the game for the Ice Flyers on the man advantage, with assists from Joe Sofo and Kolten Olynek

The teams attempted a physical and hard-hitting game, but the officials broke up their scrums before any gloves could be dropped. The first period nearly ended with a brawl, but after the buzzer sounded to send the teams to the locker rooms, they decided to not go. A misplaced word, an insult about a mother’s spaghetti, and players were yelling and shoving. Tempers seemed worn thin after all the familiarity gained over the weekend, as familiarity breeds contempt. Only roughing marked the scoresheet in terms of fisticuffs. 

The second period saw several lead changes, as Pensacola first took the lead, Quad City tied it, and Pensacola took the lead back. The Storm struggled to play a full game, expending lots of effort at some points and sitting on their heels at other points. This style of play has resulted in games lost or won by sudden bursts of either competence or lackadaisicalness.

“You know, it’s one of those things where if we were to play a full 60, how much more dominant we would be,” said Storm Head Coach Dave Pszenyczny. “We have some lapses still, but nonetheless when you can…handle the penalties and most of the time we kill it, it’s huge, it’s momentum swings. It’s the things we talked about all year, get it done, and gets us two points and that’s what we needed. It’s good.”

Former Storm player Tommy Stang took the lead for the Ice Flyers at 3:31 of the second period, with Andrew Durham and Toby Sengvongxay making their marks on the scoresheet with the assists. The Storm, to their credit, didn’t lose momentum after the goal, instead pushing harder to tie up the score once more. Moran scored a goal of his own five minutes after Stang’s wrister beat Sean Kuhn, but he didn’t have much time to celebrate it before his captain Pryce was trying to fight Pensacola captain Garrett Milan.

Moran picked a spot along the boards to stand and celebrate his goal with his teammates, though Milan had already picked an adjacent board to stand and wait for the lights to finish flashing and play to resume. Pryce skated over to celebrate and instead began shoving Milan. All but a couple of players on the ice from each side began shoving and attempting to fight, but the officials decided that post-goal was no time for unpleasantries to be exchanged. 

The teams thought they might be going to the locker rooms knotted up at two, but the Ice Flyers found the back of the net with just 30 seconds left on the clock. Ivan Bondarenko was parked at the front of the net, deflecting the puck past Kuhn after an initial shot by Mitch Atkins. This came after the Storm had made their scoring attempt 15 seconds before, as play quickly moved from the Ice Flyers’ zone when Brad Arvanitis made a save, and the puck was taken down to the home team’s zone.

After some locker room pep talk and a goalie change, in which Kevin Resop replaced Kuhn in net to start the third period, the Storm was not content to waste away in Margaritaville and be dominated by the Florida-based team.

Though the Ice Flyers extended their lead to 4-2 early in the final frame thanks to another deflection by Bondarenko. Play had been to Resop’s left, and the puck quickly moved around to the other side of the net. Before Resop could maneuver around the players in front of his net, Atkins passed to Bondarenko, who tapped the puck into the gaping net. It was the first shot on goal of the period, showing quality can sometimes outperform quantity.

The Storm kicked themselves into overdrive when down two goals, trying to force or finesse two goals. Tommy Tsicos scored off the faceoff with help from St-Pierre, who passed the puck from the blue line up to the slot after Tsicos had won the faceoff. They continued to dominate in the final frame, controlling play for much of the time. Moran then tied the game with help from Cole Golka, slipping the puck into the net from beside the net. 

The physicality the Storm found in the third period put them at a disadvantage to start the overtime period. With one second remaining in regulation, Pryce was forced to take a seat for boarding Milan. That gave Pensacola, who had already scored once on the powerplay that night and led the league in powerplay efficiency, an opportunity on the man advantage to begin sudden-death overtime. Truth be told, that was a regrettable choice for the Storm captain. The Storm penalty kill unit prevailed, though the Storm was unable to garner a single shot on goal during the bonus hockey period. 

Davis Kirkendall, who had been injured with a few minutes remaining in the third period, scored the only goal in the shootout for either team.

The Storm now hold 42 points, remaining in ninth place. Next, they’ll take on the top team in the league, the Peoria Rivermen, on the road on March 10 and 11 before a home-and-home series against the same team on March 24 and 25.

“You know, we’ve got a lot of practice days ahead of us, right, but I also believe that rest is a weapon. So we’re a hungry group right now, it seems that we’re taking adversity very well now as opposed to maybe a month and a half ago. The group that’s in there, they’re just sticking to the game plan and it’s working out,” said Pszenyczny. 

Be sure to follow @FPHStorm for the latest news and live in-game tweets. 

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    Anna Headley covers the Quad City Storm for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHStorm.

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