KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Knoxville Ice Bears return home tonight with a three-game winning streak in-tow, as they host the Pensacola Ice Flyers for the first of two games. Pensacola is trailing Knoxville in the standings by one point, so this weekend matchup has an extra level of importance.
Let’s take a look at Pensacola and see how their season is going so far.
Pensacola Ice Flyers
Current Record: 6-2-0 – 12 Points (4th in SPHL)
Goals For Per Game: 2.62 (7th in SPHL)
Goals Against Per Game: 2.25 (3rd in SPHL)
Power Play: 2/30, 6.6% (10th in SPHL)
Penalty Kill: 5/28, 82.1% (8th in SPHL)
Offensively, the Ice Flyers are led by Eddie Matsushima and Ryan Marcuz. Matsushima is in his first full season with the Ice Flyers, but in 14 games with Pensacola last year, Matsushima accounted for 13 points (6G, 7A). However, through eight games this year, Matsushima has produced eight points (2G, 6A), which leads the Ice Flyers. Marcuz is in his second season with the Ice Flyers after a long career with the Mississippi Riverkings. This year, Marcuz has tallied seven points (2G, 5A) in eight games with the Ice Flyers. Finally, the Ice Bears should keep Garrett Milan in check because he has the skill to bust any game wide open.
Defensively, Pensacola is lead by Meirs Moore, Craig Cescon, and Cameron Bakker. Moore is in his first season of professional hockey and has made an immediate impact for the Ice Flyers on the blue line scoring five points (4G, 1A) in eight games this year. Cescon is a seasoned veteran that has played all over the world. His physical style, sound defense, and leadership have been positive factors for the Ice Flyers so far. Bakker, currently on an ECHL call-up, is a next-level talent that has split time in the SPHL and ECHL in his career. In his eight games with the Ice Flyers, Bakker has used his skill and ability to be a lockdown defender on the blueline. With Bakker out of the lineup, look for Ice Bears forwards to try and exploit his absence this weekend.
In net, the Ice Flyers have been lead by Chase Perry, who has played in all eight of Pensacola’s games and won six of them. In his eight games, Perry has a 2.23 GAA, and a .902 save percentage.
Recipe For Victory
Knoxville has been on fire offensively as of late. However, Marly Quince has been called up to the ECHL’s Reading Royals, which means Knoxville will have to fill the void left behind by their leading scorer. With the return of the Stefan Brucato/Scott Cuthrell/Lucas Bombardier line, expect those three players to fill the void left by Quince. Brady Fleurent could be another player who will make the most of this opportunity.
Defensively, not much has changed for the Ice Bears. Knoxville is letting their defensive pairings get more experience together. Cooper Jones is benefitting from the stability, as his role on the ice and playing time has increased in recent weeks. For Knoxville to be successful defensively, they need to continue to commit to excellent communication and spacing on the ice. Pensacola is not an overpowering offensive team, so Knoxville should be able to put into action what they’ve worked on defensively in previous weeks.
Between the pipes, the Ice Bears have been turned on their head. Rookie Joseph Murdaca put together a 46-save shutout in his debut against Huntsville on Saturday. Hayden Stewart defeated Macon the night before by a score of 4-3. Expect Knoxville to split the weekend between Murdaca and Stewart.
The series gets started Friday night at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, and faceoff is set for 7:35 pm ET. The teams will reconvene Saturday night at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, with faceoff again set for 7:35 pm ET.
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