By James Hayes | Field Pass
The Bulls would welcome the Pensacola Ice Flyers into town on Saturday night in front of a great crowd of 2,740 at the Pelham Civic Center. This would be the 8th game between the two teams on the season with the Bulls going 2-3-2 in the previous 7 games. Pensacola would be coming of a pretty big overtime win for the team when they knocked off the top team in the league the Macon Mayhem. The win would end an 8-game winning streak for the Mayhem on the season. Birmingham on the other hand last played on Thursday night in a 4-1 loss to the Knoxville Ice Bears. Austin Lotz would get the start in net and would be in search of his first win since coming back from a suspension. On the other side Pensacola would start Jake Kupsky who recently return to the Ice Flyers from a brief stint with South Carolina in the ECHL.
The first period got going with both teams looking to find their skating legs. Both sides would exchange chances but early on both goaltenders would stand strong. Pensacola would turn up the heat a bit around the halfway point of the period and start pulling away in the shots on goal category.
At the 13:28 mark in the period Pensacola’s Zach Walker would come from behind the Birmingham goal and take send a wrister flying passed Lotz to give the Ice Flyers the lead. Throughout the rest of the period Birmingham wouldn’t get many good chances due to Pensacola doing a great job of keeping everything to the outside when playing in their own zone. The period would end 1-0 with Ice Flyers leading and outshooting the Bulls 15-6.
The second period would start out with a boom when just 10 seconds into the period former Bull Taylor Pryce would get a scoring chance and run right over Austin Lotz. Lotz would get up unscathed and the score would remain 1-0. The Bulls would skate with a purpose early on and outshoot the Ice Flyers 3-0 in the first 5 minutes of the period, but nothing would find its way through Kupsky.
7:33 into the period Birmingham would have a defensive breakdown when it looked like everyone was chasing the puck to the right-wing boards. Eddie Matsushima would take advantage of the breakdown and pass the puck to a wide-open Darren McCormick in the high slot, McCormick would take the shot and beat Lotz making it 2-0 Pensacola. Up until there was 8:40 seconds to go in the period neither team would commit a penalty but that would change when Birmingham’s Mackenzie Dwyer would drop the gloves with Darren McCormick behind the Ice Flyer net. The two would both get a few punches in, but the officials wouldn’t call either player for a fighting, instead they would get called for roughing with Dwyer getting an extra two minutes added. All together 4 players would get called for penalties and it would result in a powerplay chance for the Ice Flyers.
Twenty-two seconds into the powerplay Pensacola would get called for a hook and the teams would skate four aside. Lotz would come up with some big saves in the 4 on 4 to keep the score 2-0. Birmingham would end the sequence with a short powerplay that presented one of the better scoring chances of the night but, once again Kupsky said no.
At the 14:17 mark in the second frame former a Bull who seems to have made a habit out of scoring on his old club decided to do it again. Taylor Pryce would be skating into the high slot when Garrett Milan would send a pass to him off the left-wing, Pryce would send a wrist shot zinging passed Lotz glove hand and the score would be 3-0. Later in the period with 3:36 to go in the period Bull’s player Anthony Florentino would get called for cross checking and the Ice Flyers would get another shot on the powerplay. This time around they would not squander the opportunity away when Garret Milan would send a pass to Eddie Matsushima, Matsushima would shoot the puck under Austin Lotz arm on the stick side and the Ice Flyers would take a commanding 4-0 lead.
The Bulls would head into the locker room after the period looking to make some big changes for the 3rd period.
It wouldn’t take long for Pensacola to score in the third period. Birmingham would get caught in another defensive breakdown when Jake Wahlin would find Darren McCormick in the slot with the defense behind him. McCormick would take the pass and shoot on the backhand to make the score 5-0 with 18:52 remaining in the third.
The Ice Flyers would continue their dominance on the night at the 5:26 mark in the final frame when McCormick would strike again. This time McCormick would skate on a 2 on 1 breakaway with teammate Jake Wahlin. Wahlin would pass the puck over to McCormick who would take his time and pick his spot, then shoot top shelf stick on Lotz scoring his 3rd of the night. McCormick’s hat trick goal would put Pensacola up 6-0 with a lot of time still remaining in the period.
The frustration from Birmingham would boil over shortly thereafter when Kasey Kulczycki would drop the gloves in a very brief fight with Brennan Blaszczack. Kulczycki would land a few punches and get the takedown in the fight. The rough stuff would continue a few minutes later when Birmingham’s Jamie Forslund would try to drop the gloves with Zach Walker after being cross checked, Forslund would land a few punches to Walker on the ground and a slew of penalties would be handed out.
At the 9:09 mark former Bull Taylor Pryce would drop the gloves with Cameron Strong, Pryce would get the best of Strong then skate passed the Bulls bench chirping to his former team. Bulls Captain Logan Nelson didn’t take kindly to that and chased Pryce to the penalty box which would cost Nelson a 10-minute game misconduct penalty.
From there on out the Bull’s would get a few chances but Kupsky and the Ice Flyers would continue to shut them down. The game would end 6-0 Pensacola and the Bulls would lose their fourth straight game.
After the game a very disheartened Coach Simchuk said, “Through thick and thin we got to stick together, we can’t do things on our own. When things aren’t going our way, that’s when you go to lean on your partner or line mate.”
The Bull’s will have a week to try and make the right changes before they welcome in the top team in the league, the Macon Mayhem for a two-game series at the Pelham Civic Center.
As the season moves along every point in the standings becomes even more crucial as the SPHL released the playoff format for the season early this week. The playoffs this season will feature all but the team that finds themselves in 5th place when the season ends, the remaining teams will play a best of 3 series with the #1 seed playing the #4 seed and the #2 seed playing #3. As it sits now the Bulls are on the outside looking in.