Last week, IceGators goalie Adam Courchaine got a win at the expense of his former team. Friday night, it was Pensacola Ice Flyers goalie Matt Zenzola turn to send his regards. The Ice Flyers had a strong first period, then held on in the third period to give the visiting IceGators their first loss of the season.

The game began with the first scrap of the IceGators’ season. Defensemen Anthony Pisano of the IceGators and Pensacola’s Brandon Blair gave the fans a well fought heavyweight bout after the opening puck drop. Blair got in a few quick hits early in the bout, but Pisano recovered with some good shots before Blair pulled him down to the ice, ending the fight. We call this scrap a draw; Blair and Pisano are some big, tough dudes.

There could be some history behind last night’s fight between Pisano and Blair that not only spans years, but leagues.  On December 7th, 2013, Pisano – then playing for the CHL St. Charles Chill – got into a weight-class spanning scrap with Denver Cutthroats defenseman Phil Tesoriero. Unsurprisingly, Tesoriero, giving up 90 pounds and 9 inches to Pisano, got hammered. That game turned out to be Pisano’s last until his return to hockey with the IceGators. Tesoriero – now with the Ice Flyers – perhaps wanted a little retribution for that night in 2013, with Blair taking up his cause.

And Now… Back to the Game.

The Ice Flyers jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first minutes of play. The first goal came a couple of minutes into the game off of a perfectly executed set play from an offensive zone face off. Adam Pawlick, parked in the slot, deflected a Corey Banfield shot from the top of the left circle to open the night’s scoring. A few minutes later, Pensacola forward Ryan Kesti tips in a rebound past Courchaine’s open glove side after a shot from the point fired in by defenseman Cole Ruwe.

The IceGators answered back with a little hard work of their own. Luke Kasteel and Alex Hudson team up with some strong work in the corner during an IceGators’ line change, with Kasteel getting behind the net and wrapping the puck around Zenzola’s far post to cut the Ice Flyers’ lead to one.

Pensacola would extend their lead again before the end of the first period. Joe Holka flipped a wrist shot from down low that got between Courchaine and the near post. The first period of play would end with the Ice Flyers leading 3-1.

Second Period

A familiar combination haunted the IceGators again on this Halloween weekend matchup. Joe Caveney and Paul Rodrigues cashed in an IceGators’ defensive zone turnover to extend the Ice Flyers lead to 4-1. A back pass from the near point of the IceGators’ zone was picked off by Caevney, who ran a give-and-go with Rodrigues to beat Courchaine on his open stick side. The goal would end Courchaine’s night, with coach Drew Omicioli electing to put rookie Jonah Imoo into the game.

The IceGators would wind up cashing in on an Ice Flyers turnover soon after. Jake Hauswirth picked off a outlet pass right in front of Matt Zenzola’s crease. Easy pickings for the IceGators captain to trim the Flyers lead to 4-2. Again, the Ice Flyers would extend their lead. A blue line turnover would lead to a Banfield breakaway. Imoo made the original save, but Holka – trailing on the play, would tip in the open rebound for his second goal of the night.

Louisiana would close out the scoring in the second period with an unlikely assist from Anthony Pisano. Pisano – getting his first point since October 25th, 2013 – shot in a puck from the blue line which deflected off of Jeremy Boyer’s stick and past Zenzola. The second period would end as the first period did, with the Flyers leading by two, 5-3.

Third Period

The Ice Flyers focused to holding on to their lead in the game’s final frame, and the IceGators would dominate play in the offensive zone with occasional counter-attacks by Pensacola. Both Zenzola and Imoo made some great saves during the back-and-forth action. Omicioli would take advantage of a late Pensacola penalty to pull Imoo for an extra attacker with 2:33 remaining in the game – giving the Gators a 6-4 advantage for 24 seconds while Corey Banfield was still in the penalty box. The sixth skater worked for the IceGators, with Blake Hietala getting his second goal of the season with 1:03 remaining in the game.  However, the IceGators could not manage the equalizer to force overtime, and the Pensacola Ice Flyers would escape their home opener with a victory.

Game Recap

Team
Louisiana
Pensacola
Goals
1-2-1–4
3-2-0–5
Shots
8-11-15–34
17-10-4–31
Power Plays
0-4
0-3

Scoring

1st Period
2:31 – PEN – Adam Pawlick (Corey Banfield, Mike Krieg)
6:20 – PEN – Ryan Kesti (Cole Ruwe, Mike Krieg 2)
8:31 – LOU – Luke Kasteel (Alex Hudson)
18:00 – PEN – Joe Holka (Corey Banfield 2, Jeremy Gates)
2nd Period
2:54 – PEN – Joe Caveney (Paul Rodrigues)
4:13 – LOU – Jake Hauwirth (unassisted)
8:26 – PEN – Joe Holka 2 (Corey Banfield 3, Adam Pawlick)
19:46 – LOU – Jeremy Boyer (Anthony Pisano)3rd Period
18:59 – LOU – Blake Hietala (EA) (Jordan Ciccarello, Alex Hudson 2)

The Sin Bin’s Three Stars

: Corey Banfield (PEN)
★ ★ : Joe Holka (PEN)
★ ★ ★ : Alex Hudson (LOU)

Around the SPHL

Knoxville Ice Bears 2, Fayetteville FireAntz 5 – The SPHL Title Belt belongs to Fayetteville.
Mississippi RiverKings 6, Columbus Cottonmouths 3 – RiverKings have a big second period, then cruise to their second road win.
Huntsville Havoc 2, Macon Mayhem 1 – Late game heroics by the Havoc as Huntsville comes from behind in Macon.

Saturday Night’s Game

The Macon Mayhem earned their first SPHL regular-season victory in historic fashion Saturday night, blanking the Columbus Cottonmouths 4-0. Columbus remains the only winless team in the SPHL.

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