By James Hayes | Field Pass
Birmingham rolled into Knoxville looking to get a little payback after losing 3-2 in OT last Saturday against the Ice Bears. The Ice Bears overcame a 2-0 deficit in the third period to force extra time. Then with just 18 seconds remaining in OT, Brett Beauvais buried the game winner. So far on the season the Bulls have failed to win a game against Knoxville and have a 0-4-2 record against them. With the call up to the ECHL for Austyn Roudebush, goaltender Peter Di Salvo got the call-in net for Knoxville. Birmingham would start Zach Quinn in net after a stellar performance against the Ice Bears last game.
A very fast paced first period was dominated by Knoxville. It only took 44 seconds for Mathieu Roy to find the back of the net when he skated through the slot splitting the Bulls defense and sending a backhander through Zach Quinn’s 5 hole. Birmingham struggled to get any quality scoring chances throughout the first period, although they would get credited with 7 shots on goal.
At the 14:02 mark of the first frame, Knoxville would strike again when Austin Plevy sent a one timer flying passed Quinn to put the Ice Bears up 2-0. The Bulls would finally get a decent look in the final few minutes of the period, but Peter Di Salvo would turn them away. The Bulls went into the locker room after the first period down by two goals and looking to make some adjustments.
Birmingham came out for the second period a changed team and quickly jumped to the offensive. The hard work paid off 4:21 into the period on a 2 on 1 breakaway that featured Logan Nelson and Cole Stallard. Nelson would send the puck to Stallard, who would not waste the opportunity and send it past Di Salvo.
Birmingham continued the push, but a neutral zone turnover would cost them dearly. Scott Cuthrell would take the puck into the offensive zone with a lot of space and send a wrist shot into the net from the right face off circle, giving the Ice Bears back the 2-goal lead. Despite being down by two once again, Birmingham would not go away. With just under 5 minutes to go in the period, a very hard-working shift by Mike Davis would pay off when he would steal the puck away from Knoxville and skate all alone across the goal crease. Davis would cut the lead down again with a crafty move and a backhand shot beating Di Salvo. The final two minutes featured penalties by both teams but neither team would convert, although the Bulls would carry over a minute of PP time into the final frame.
The 3rd period was all about the Ice Bears. Despite having to go on the penalty kill twice early in the period, the Ice Bears still found a way to build on the lead. 8:31 into the final frame Nick Master, while being shorthanded, would take the puck in the neutral zone and skate down uncontested into the offensive zone. Master shoots the puck, beating Quinn, and putting the Ice Bears up 4-2.
The Bulls didn’t go down without a fight, but Knoxville’s defense proved too strong. The Bulls controlled the puck for a large portion of the period, but were only able to register 2 shots on goal. Knoxville would continue their winning streak against the Birmingham on the season.
After the game Coach Simchuk had this to say about the night, “This is playoff hockey and we are running out of time. We need everyone bringing their best game every night to have success. We have to find a way to battle through adversity and win.”
Birmingham will stay in Knoxville as they continue their road trip on Friday against the Ice Bears. Birmingham now losers of 4 straight, will look to get back into the win column and work there way back into playoff contention.