By James Hayes | Field Pass
One night after losing a hard-fought battle 2-0 against the Knoxville Ice Bears, the Bulls welcome the Pensacola Ice Flyers into the Pelham Civic Center. This marks the 9th meeting between the two teams on the season with the Bulls going 3-3-2 against Pensacola. Last time the Ice Flyers came into the Pelham Civic Center they defeated the Bulls 6-0 back on March 6. Birmingham, who you could imagine feels some pressure while sitting out of the playoff picture right now is looking to turn things around and build on all the positives from one night before. This is also the last home game for the Birmingham until April 8 following 7 consecutive road games.
Despite losing one goaltender to injury and another to an AHL call up, the goaltending was not the major issue the night before as Zach Quinn stopped 24 of 26 shots. Coach Simchuk was quoted saying,
Quinn probably played the game of his life.
Despite the lack of experience in net, the coach showed confidence in the net minder and gave Quinn the start once again.
The game started out with a quick penalty to keep with the trend of the series between the teams this season. The first penalty of the game put the Bulls on the powerplay when Ice Flyer Connor Sanvido got called for tripping. Birmingham would fail to convert on the powerplay, and as it came to an end, would commit a penalty of their own when Jacob Smith got called for hooking. Neither team would be successful on the man advantage early, although Pensacola tested Zach Quinn by putting 9 shots on goal in the first six minutes.
At the 14:49 mark, the Ice Flyers rushed into the offensive zone on a 2 on 1 break. Duggie Lagrone sent a pass across to Jake Wahlin who used a crafty backhander to beat Zach Quinn and put Pensacola up 1-0. Late in the period, in what has become a recurring thing for the Bulls lately, they would go on the penalty kill with 56.7 seconds remaining. They managed to kill off the penalty time in the first period, but some penalty time would still carry over to the start of the second.
Birmingham killed off the remainder of the penalty time to start the second period and would try to pick up the pace a bit from there. At the 6:51 mark of the period, Pensacola’s Chris McKay got caught hooking which resulted in a Birmingham power play. Just 24 seconds later, Pensacola got called for another penalty when Duggie Lagrone flipped the puck out of play in the defensive zone causing a delay of game penalty.
Birmingham wasted no time on the 5 on 3 penalty and would score just 10 seconds into the 2 man advantage when captain Logan Nelson passed the puck over to Alec Baer, who was moving into the slot. Baer would go top shelf glove side and beat Pensacola goaltender, Jack Berry for Birmingham’s first goal of the night.
25 seconds later the Bulls would strike again when Logan Nelson would take a slapshot from the blueline, the puck then deflected off Cameron Strong’s stick and found the back of the net. With 7:41 remaining in the period Birmingham’s Tyler Penner was assed a penalty for holding and the Ice Flyers would go on the power play once again. A little over halfway through the PP Darren McCormick decided it was time to tie the game up when we got a pass from Eddie Matsushima and snuck the puck passed Quinn. The teams would go into the locker room tied 2-2 and Pensacola outshooting the Birmingham 31-18 heading into the 3rd period.
The third period was played at a very high tempo with few whistles and no penalties. Birmingham outshot Pensacola 10-7 in the period. Neither side could seem to figure out a solution to break the 2-2 tie in the game. With 30 seconds remaining in the period, Zach Quinn was tested not just once, but two times when Pensacola tried to break the tie. Both times Quinn stood his ground and ensured nothing would get past him. At the final horn of the third period we still had a 2-2 tie which meant it was time for some 3 on 3 overtime hockey.
In overtime, Pensacola controlled the puck for the majority of the first few minutes and saw only a few quality chances. The Bulls got control of the puck and would get a few chances of their own, but neither goaltender would budge. In the winding seconds of the extra period Pensacola would get an odd man rush coming into the zone. Jordan Ernst would show his patience as he skated across the high slot, picked his shot and sent it sailing into the back of the net for the game winner.
A quote from Bulls' coach, Craig Simchuk after the game can give you a feel for the sense of urgency to starting piecing together some.
Every game is a 4 point game, right now I’m telling the guys it's playoff mentality and every game matters.
With this loss, the Bulls fell one more point behind the 4th place Huntsville Havoc, who currently sit in the final playoff spot in the standings. Things won’t get any easier from here either, they will finish out the weekend in Knoxville a team they already faced once this weekend. From there they start a stretch that will keep them away from home for 6 more games, so you can be assured they will be looking to start building some momentum starting on Saturday night in Knoxville against the Ice Bears.