By James Hayes | Field Pass
The Birmingham Bulls fell to the Pensacola Ice Flyer in what started out as a game you would expect to see on the movie Slapshot. Austin Lotz got the start for the Bulls coming into the night with a 2-1-1 record and a 4.70 Goals against average.
The game started fast with Pensacola controlling the play and scoring early with a power play goal from Jake Wahlin at the 4:18 mark of the first period. The leading scorer in the SPHL Eddie Matsushima and Darren McCormick recorded the assist. Four minutes later chaos would ensue on the ice, it started in the Bulls offensive zone when Bulls newcomer Anthony Collins landed a big hit on Pensacola’s Michael Chen. The Ice Flyers would ice the puck and Pensacola’s Alec Hagaman would lay a late hit on Bulls player Theodore Calvas after the whistle. Austin Lotz , not happy about the late hit on Calvas, took a swing at Hagaman with his goalie stick. Shortly there after at center ice Collins would stand toe to toe with Pensacola’s Matt Ustaski in what would be the only fight of the night. Collins landed some very solid punches all while continuing to chirp his opponent. When the referee’s regained control of the situation there would be seven penalties handed out including a game misconduct to Austin Lotz for slashing Hagaman on top of a five-minute major for slashing which would give the Ice Flyers 5 minutes with the man advantage. Rookie Hayden Stewart would come in to the game to replace Lotz in goal and begin his night killing off the 5-minute penalty.
Birmingham would be given a power play of there own shortly thereafter at the 13:13 mark in the first period. The Bulls unfortunately couldn’t maintain control of the puck and allowed Matsushima to take off on a breakaway to score a shorthanded goal that looked to be stopped originally by Stewart and then incidentally pushed into the goal by Birmingham’s Mike Davis. There would end up being a combined 12 penalties in the first period with each team receiving 6 apiece. At the end of the first period Birmingham was being outshot 21-7 and went to the locker room trailing 2-0.
The second period was set up to be just as exciting as the first as the teams started out playing 4 on 4 due to late first period penalties to Logan Nelson and Cam Bakker. At the 3:57 mark in the second period, Pensacola would again find the back of the net with a goal from Nick Neville. Jake Wahlin adn Darren McCormick would get credit for an assist. Birmingham would see a few good chances through the middle of the second period but could not solve the puzzle on how to get through Pensacola’s Chase Perry. With 8:16 remaining in the second period Pensacola’s Jake Wahlin would beat a Birmingham goalies for the second time in the night, this time being Hayden Stewart. Late in the second period the Bulls would finally solve the Chase Perry puzzle and get a goal from Logan Nelson. The play started beside the Birmingham net with a pass from Mackenzie Dwyer who found Kasey Kulczycki waiting for the puck at the Pensacola blue line. Kulczycki would quickly pass along the right-wing boards to Nelson who would skate down nearly uncontested and launch a shot beating Perry short side. The end of the 2nd period had Birmingham being outshot 31-14 and down 4-1 heading into the final period of the night.
The 3rd period kicked off with the Bulls on the penalty kill again. With the exception of the first one of the night, they proved to have a pretty strong penalty kill going 3 for 4 for the game. The Bulls came out firing on all cylinders, throwing everything they had at Chase Perry but shot after shot, Perry would turn them away.
Birmingham would get their final chance on the power play with 8:35 remaining in the game and, on a night that the power play was just not clicking, this would turn out to be the best one of the night even though they came up empty handed. Birmingham would show that never quit attitude in the final 2 minutes and see some of there best scoring chances of the night but Perry would deny them each time. At the final horn, the Bulls would fall to Pensacola 4-1 in a night that many thought would get out of control after a very chippy 1st period.
Birmingham will have to shake this one off quickly as they head up to Huntsville to play the Huntsville Havoc Saturday night. The Havoc will be coming off a 3-0 victory over The Knoxville Ice Bears and are sitting atop the SPHL standings.