By James Hayes | Field Pass
On a night we didn’t see a shortage of goals or penalties, Birmingham falls to Knoxville in the first matchup between the two teams this season. The night would feature Hayden Stewart starting in goal for the second game in a row due to Austin Lotz being suspended by the league for 8 games after his actions in the game against Pensacola last Friday. Stewart would come into the game facing a team he played one game for earlier this season. All together on the year he has a 1-2 record with a 3.15 Goals against average. On the other side we would see veteran goaltender Peter Di Salvo start for the Ice Bears. He would be coming into the game with a record of 2-2 on the season with a 3.01 goals against average. Knoxville would be looking to stop a 3-game losing streak and start battling there way up the standings as they currently sit in last place.
The first period Knoxville would come out fast and just 5 minutes into the game they would get what at first looked to be a goal but would end up getting called back for illegal contact with the goaltender. The Ice bears wouldn’t wait long though after getting the goal called back and would find the back of the net only a few minutes later. The goal would come from Lincoln Griffin who would be playing in his first game after serving a 7-game suspension placed on him by the team in early January. Anthony McVeigh would get the lone assist on the goal. At the 8:59 mark we would get to see the first of many penalties called on the night. This one would be against Knoxville player Mike Gornall for tripping. This would set up Birmingham’s number one power play unit in the league against Knoxville’s number on penalty kill unit. Knoxville would go on to kill the penalty and then regain control of the puck and continue there first period dominance. The period would end with the teams playing 4 on 4 hockey and the Ice Bears leading 1-0.
The second period would start with both teams failing to score on the remainder of the 4 on 4. Shortly after we get back to 5 on 5 hockey Knoxville would again find themselves on the penalty kill. The Ice Bears would once again prove to have a strong penalty kill unit and not allow a goal. After the penalty was over the game looked as if it may get out of hand when a scrum takes place in front of the Birmingham net and Taylor Pryce of the Bulls and David Brancik would find themselves in the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct. Finally, five minutes and thirty-seven seconds into the period the Bulls would find a way to score. It was once again Jared Legien who continues his red-hot play of recent. Legien would score when Logan Nelson would gain control of the puck behind the net and then dish the puck into the slot to Legien who would beat Di Salvo glove side and tie the game at 1 goal apiece. The penalties would continue to roll in for both teams about eight minutes into the period and the Bulls would even get a 4 on 3 powerplay chance but yet again
Knoxville’s penalty kill was showing why they are the best and the Bulls wouldn’t score. A few short seconds after the penalties had expired Cole Stallard would score a goal that would put the Bulls ahead for the first time of the night. Jared Legien would not get credit for an assist but the play would start when he sent a pass towards the net to Stallard who would shoot the puck off Di Salvo’s pads and regain control on the rebound elevating the puck just enough to get over Di Salvo’s pads and into the back of the net. The Bulls would continue to keep the pressure on the Ice Bears and once again find the back of the net at the 13:45 mark of the third period. This goal would come off a mistake made when Knoxville’s Josh Thrower would pass across ice to nobody in the offensive zone. The puck would bounce of the boards right onto Bull Tanner Froese’s stick. Froese would race down the ice and launch a shot at Di Salvo and have it bounce off the goaltenders pads and direct a rebound straight to Anthony Florentino who would send the puck home over Di Salvo’s stick as he was attempting to come across the crease. Florentino would score in his first game as a Bull after being signed only one day before. If you didn’t think that was enough action for the 2nd period Knoxville would ensure to keep everyone on there toes when Anthony McVeigh would find the back of the net with on 38 seconds remaining in the period. With that goal the second period would close out with the Bulls leading the Ice Bears 3 to 2.
After a dominate performance by the Bulls through most of the second period they would find themselves in a position to build on their lead when Noah Corson of the Ice Bears would get called for high sticking 50 seconds into the period. If that wasn’t enough 39 seconds before that penalty would expire Knoxville would get called for another high stick, this time on Stefan Brucato. This would give the Bulls a 5-3 powerplay for 39 seconds, but yet again the Ice Bears penalty unit was going to have none of that. Immediately after killing off the 5-3 Knoxville would find themselves on a breakaway that would end with Lincoln Griffin sending his shot wide of the net. Knoxville would build off what their penalty killers were doing out there and maintain control though most of the period. With 3:20 seconds to go the Ice Bears Austin Plevy would tie the game up of a rebound from Dalton Skelly’s shot. The final 3 minutes of the game featured a Knoxville team that did not want to go into overtime and did not want to drop their fourth straight game. With only 30 seconds remaining the Ice Bears would somehow find the back of the net when chaos ensued in front of Hayden Stewart. The guy that started the scoring would then end the scoring as Lincoln Griffin would bury the game winner into the back of the net.
On a night that looked to be the Bulls night after a very strong second period the Ice Bears found a way to come from behind and win it in a thriller.
In a tough loss Coach Simchuk had this to say about the night, “Can’t let a team like that hang around. We had chances in the second to put them away and we didn’t capitalize. I give them credit, they fought back and didn’t give up.”
That they did but, the Bulls will have to shake this one off quickly because it was only the first of three games to be played this weekend. Tomorrow night they will be back home at the Pelham Civic Center to host in state rival the Huntsville Havoc for the two teams fifth meeting of the season.