By James Hayes | Field Pass
For the second time in three days, Birmingham faces off against the Knoxville Ice Bears. This time, the game will be played in Knoxville, kicking off a 7-game road trip for the Bulls. Knoxville’s play as of late has been red hot. They are currently on a 9-game win streak and have the hottest goaltender in the league with Austyn Roudebush.
Roudebush has an outstanding 1.00 goals against average and a 0.965 save percentage. Birmingham on the other hand has struggled lately and are still looking for a win this weekend. The previous two games of the weekend have shown an improved Bulls team that is starting to click together. Birmingham is coming off an overtime loss the night before against the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Knoxville had the night off with their last game being the 3-0 victory against Birmingham on Thursday night.
Knoxville dominated most of the first period and outshot Birmingham 11-3. Zach Quinn who got his 3rd start in net for the Bulls denied all 11 shots. He made an especially big save about halfway into the period when Lincoln Griffin had a wide-open net and Quinn absolutely robbed him with an amazing stick save. If the SPHL does a save of the year award, it was definitely a candidate for that. Both teams would play a defensively sound period and go into the locker room all knotted up at 0-0.
The second period featured a Birmingham team nobody had seen in quite some time. The Bulls made the right adjustments during intermission and came out skating with a purpose. 1:50 into the period, the hard work would pay off when the Bulls skated in on an odd man rush and Chris Lijdsman passed the puck to the right face off circle where Anthony Collins was racing in. Collins wrists the shot right past Austyn Roudebush and break the scoreless tie.
You could feel the sense of urgency from the Ice Bears, but the despite being outshot, the Bulls would control the play. 8:40 into the second period, once again Anthony Collins would take the spotlight. This time it was for a fight with Knoxville’s Andrew McLean. Collins would get the better of Mclean in the bout and both men would take a seat in the penalty box for 5 minutes. A few minutes later, Bulls captain Logan Nelson would steal the puck away from Knoxville in the offensive zone and send a centering pass to Jacob Smith. Smith would take the puck and dangle around Roudebush to score, making it a 2-0 game in favor of the Bulls. A few seconds after the goal we would get our second fight of the night. This one would feature Colton Heffley of the Ice Bears against Kyle McKenzie of Birmingham. There was a lot of energy in the fight and both men exchanged some solid blows before the refs stepped in and sent them to the sin bin. Just over a minute later, we would finally see our first powerplay of the night when Birmingham’s Mike Davis got called for tripping. The Bulls killed off the penalty with some help from Zach Quinn who all the way through the 2nd period was playing a great game. Despite being outshot 23-10 through two periods, the Bulls went into the locker room with a 2-0 lead.
Knoxville came out in the third period on a mission. Much like Birmingham did in the second period. 4:28 into the third, Knoxville finally found a way to beat Quinn. Matthieu Roy would take a shot right in front of the net. Quinn would get a piece of it with his stick but not enough and the score would be 2-1.
Just over one minute later Knoxville tied the game up when Jacob Benson took the puck off Quinn’s right pad and stuffed it into the back of the net. With 4:10 remaining the Bulls got there first powerplay of the game when Knoxville got called for interference. Birmingham failed to convert on the powerplay and would commit a penalty of their own with 6 seconds left in the PP. Knoxville failed to convert as well on their powerplay, and the game would go into overtime.
For the second game in a row the Bulls needed extra time to decide the game. Knoxville controlled the play throughout the majority of the overtime period. The Bulls did get a few scoring chances, but they would get turned away by Roudebush. In the final seconds of overtime Brett Beauvais would send the puck into the the net, giving the Ice Bears a team record 10th win in a row.
A frustrated Coach Simchuk had this to say after the game, “We’re pissing away points that we desperately need.”
It was a very tough loss for the Bulls who came into the third period up 2-0. The team would not start the road trip on a very high note, but for the third game in a row you could see that the team is trending in the right direction. Birmingham will get a chance at revenge next Thursday night when they once again face the Ice Bears in Knoxville.