By James Hayes | Field Pass
One night after a lackluster performance at home against the Knoxville Ice Bears the Birmingham Bulls go into Pensacola looking for a win. It came down to the wire, but the Bulls persevered and will leave Pensacola winners after a 4-3 victory on Saturday night.
Both teams came into the night off tough losses the night before as the Pensacola Ice Flyers would get shut out 2-0 against Macon and Birmingham fell 5-1 to the Ice Bears. This matchup would be the fifth of the year between the two teams with the Ice Flyers leading the season series 3-2.
Birmingham goalie Hayden Stewart would get the start once again and face Pensacola’s Chase Perry on the other side of the ice. Pensacola would come into the game after placing 4 guys on the Injured Reserve list including one of the team’s leading goal scorers in Alec Hagaman. This would also be the first game for Taylor Pryce against his old club after being traded by Birmingham to Pensacola earlier in the week.
The night before the Bulls got caught with a quick goal against in the first period and this night, they would decide to get that quick goal themselves. 40 seconds into the game newcomer Chantz Petruic would send the puck into the back of the net right off the face-off in the offensive zone. Logan Nelson would take the draw and win it back to Petruic who wouldn’t give Pensacola’s Chase Perry anytime to react. Just like that, the Bulls were up 1-0.
Shortly thereafter while on the powerplay the Bulls would strike again. 3:36 into the period Logan Nelson would find Anthony Florentino at the blueline and Florentino would send the puck sailing into the net. With a 2-0 lead early on Birmingham would continue to pressure and control most of the play throughout the first period.
With 2:56 to go in the period, Birmingham’s Jared Legien would get called for slashing and the penalty kill unit that has seen some success as of late would go to work. The Bulls would put on a penalty killing clinic and easily kill of the penalty. The last 2 minutes would also feature 2 more penalties, one on each Birmingham and Pensacola. We would see 4 on 4 hockey for the second time in the game, but nothing would come of it and the period would end with the Bulls up 2-0
The second period would start with a very short 4 on 4 and then turn into another Ice Flyer powerplay that the Bulls would deny. Birmingham would soon thereafter find themselves adding to their lead when Logan Nelson would score at the 3:28 mark in the period. Petruic would skate into the zone and find Nelson racing into the left-wing circle, send the puck his way and Nelson would beat Perry for a 3-0 lead.
Things began to boil over for the Ice Flyers at that point and shortly after the goal on the next sequence a scrum would start up behind the Ice Flyer net. Kasey Kulczycki dropped the gloves with Pensacola’s Garett Milan. The fight was over as quick as it started as Kulczycki would land a few quick punches before both men would go down to the ice.
Things would continue to get more physical as the period progressed and Pensacola would see one of there best scoring chances around the twelve-minute mark, but Hayden Stewart would not let anything through. Right around the halfway point of the period we would witness what could be considered fight of the year so far. Birmingham’s Chris Lijdsman would square off against Travis Armstrong. The fight would feature both men landing punch after punch until they both tired out and the refs stepped in. Armstrong looked to be cut in the fight and skated of the ice for repairs while Lijdsman headed to the box. The fight sparked something in the Ice Flyers that had been missing for the past game and a half as they finally scored there first goal of the weekend with 7:47 remaining in the second period. The goal would come off a Darren McCormick pass from the right faceoff circle to Conner Powell who was waiting on the doorstep of Hayden Stewarts net.
With 2:35 remaining in the period Birmingham would dump the puck into the offensive zone and as Pensacola’s Chase Perry would skate back , it would take an odd bounce of the boards and go right to the front of the net where Birmingham’s Kasey Kulczycki would find himself in the perfect position to knock the puck into an wide open net and send the Bulls into the locker room up 4-1.
The third period would be a period that showed us just how much a desperate but determined Pensacola team can do when backed into a corner. Just over 6 minutes into the final period, CJ Hayes would get called for slashing and the Ice Flyers would go on the power play looking to close the gap. Former Bull, Taylor Pryce would do just that by showing off some slick moves and crafty stick handling as he skates through three Bull’s defenders and slips the puck past Stewart to bring the Ice Flyers within 2 goals.
Pensacola would control the play and put heavy pressure on Birmingham after the goal and once again shorten the lead when Jordan Ernst would skate in of the right-wing circle and send a backhander in past Hayden Stewart. The Bulls would see their big lead turn into a one goal lead with just over 7 minutes remaining in the game. Pensacola would apply heavy pressure in the offensive zone and draw a penalty with 3:22 remaining when Jared Legien of Birmingham would get called for hooking. While still on the powerplay and with 2:12 remaining Pensacola would pull their goalie and give themselves a 6 on 4 advantage. The Bulls would kill of the penalty but would remain shorthanded as Chase Perry would stay on the bench for the Ice Flyers.. When the final horn sounded, the Birmingham Bulls would come out of this one on top with a final score of 4-3
After the game Coach Simchuk said,
“Huge win. The guys battled hard right to the final buzzer. Pensacola is not an easy place to win. Every game needs to have that intensity.”
Huge win it was. It would stop the two-game skid as well as keep the Bulls from falling into last place in the standings. The Bull’s will try to carry this momentum into next Thursday as they welcome Pensacola to the Pelham Civic Center for the two teams seventh matchup of the season.