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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After a stint in the ECHL with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Zoltan Hetenyi was ready to regain his role as the Knoxville Ice Bears go-to backstop. Hetenyi was a workhorse prior to his assignment to the Swamp Rabbits, appearing in 23 of 30 Ice Bears games. During Hetenyi’s absence, Troy Davenport proved to be a fine replacement in net, going 3-0-2 over the five-game span. Tonight, in Knoxville, the veteran netminder reassumed his role as the Ice Bears’ starter, making 42 of 43 saves in the Ice Bears’ 2-1 win over the Huntsville Havoc in the 141st game of the SPHL’s longest rivalry.

The rematch of last night’s 4-3 overtime win by Huntsville at the Von Braun Center was missing one participant. Ice Bears Coach Jeff Carr was suspended by the SPHL earlier Friday afternoon for a post-game incident. Knoxville team president Mike Murray replaced Carr behind the Ice Bears’ bench.

Tempers in the league’s most contested rivalry flared early in the first period. After a brief fight between Huntsville’s Skyler Smutek and Knoxville’s Austin Hervey, a scrum erupted behind Hetenyi’s crease. In the melee, Huntsville forward Scott Trask kicked his skate blades at Ice Bears blueliner Mike Chen. The highly dangerous infraction earned Trask a match penalty only 4:29 into the game. According to SPHL rules, a match penalty automatically triggers a one-game suspension, meaning at the very least Trask will not play until Tuesday night’s game against the Mississippi RiverKings. The Havoc seemed to gain a moral victory after a successful five-minute penalty kill as a result of the match penalty.

Later in the first period, Huntsville’s moral victory from earlier became a distant memory after Eliot Grauer, the Ice Bears’ leading scorer this season in games against the Havoc, gets a turnover behind the Huntsville defense and goes backhand on Havoc starter Keegan Asmundson to open the scoring. The goal was Grauer’s third and his tenth point against the Havoc this season.

Despite the lack of scoring, the first period was played at a crisp pace and both Hetenyi and Asmundson playing steadily in their creases. After the first intermission, the game’s tempo slowed down dramatically. Both teams, scheduled to play three games in three nights this weekend, seemed to conserve their energy for twenty minutes. At times, the Ice Bears would test the Havoc defenses, but Huntsville’s blue line stood strong. The scoreless second frame split 18 shots evenly between the teams, the majority being low-percentage shots easily saved by the goaltenders.

As expected, the Havoc emerged first for the third act by dominating possession and testing Knoxville with repeated odd-man rushes. Hetenyi continued to bat away the Havoc scoring chances until the 6:11 mark of the third period when a three-on-one break led by Sy Nutkevitch proved to be the shutout-breaker. The Havoc veteran hit Justin Fox with a one-time cross-ice pass which Hetenyi would be unable to cover in time. Fox’s goal tied up the game, 1-1, with the Havoc holding all of the game’s momentum.

In a game featuring teams with the SPHL’s top power play (Huntsville) and penalty kill (Knoxville), it’s fitting special teams would ultimately be the deciding factor. With the Ice Bears on the penalty kill, Havoc defenseman Andy Willigar would get whistled on a borderline interference call on Knoxville’s Berkley Scott. With the Ice Bears penalty killed and six seconds until Willigar would rejoin the action, Marcus Ortiz got a wide-open look at Asmundson’s net and a rebounded puck on his stick. Ortiz made quick work of the opportunity, successfully converting the shot which would eventually become the game’s difference maker.

The Ice Bears (21-11-4) win moves them into sole possession of third place in the SPHL standings with 20 games remaining. With the league’s new challenge round format in this year’s President’s Cup playoffs, the league’s top three teams will have options available to them in picking their first-round playoff opponent. Hetenyi’s win, his 14th of the season, ties him with Evansville’s Tomas Sholl for the SPHL lead.

Both teams will complete their three-in-three tomorrow. The Havoc will play a rare 3:00 p.m. CT game against the Pensacola Ice Flyers in Huntsville, while the Ice Bears will travel to Roanoke and face the Rail Yard Dawgs.

Around the league tonight, the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs withstood a dominating first period from the Fayetteville Marksmen, then scored four unanswered goals to overcome a 3-1 deficit to sweep the home-and-home pair. The Evansville Thunderbolts lost their seventh straight game, falling 2-1 at the Ford Center to the Mississippi RiverKings, winners of their last three games. Finally, the ninth-place Birmingham Bulls upset the Peoria Rivermen with a 3-2 win at the Pelham Civic Center. The Rivermen are currently 0-1-1 in the league’s newest venue.

Tonight’s Three Stars of the Game

★ – Zoltan Hetenyi, Knoxville: Win, 42/43 saves
★★ – Eliot Grauer, Knoxville: Goal, Assist
★★★ – Justin Fox, Huntsville: Goal, 4 SOG

Game Details

1 2 3 TOTALS
Huntsville 0 0 1 1
Knoxville 1 0 1 2
Huntsville 10 9 22 43
Knoxville 11 9 10 30

Power Plays

Huntsville 0 – 4 : Knoxville 1 – 4

Scoring Summary

Period 1
Knoxville – Eliot Grauer (unassisted) 14:26
Period 2
(no scoring)
Period 3
Huntsville – Justin Fox (Sy Nutkevitch, Peter Sikalis) 6:11
Knoxville – Marcus Ortiz (power play) (Eliot Grauer, Dean Yakura) 13:33


Period 1
Huntsville – Skyler Smutek – (Fighting) (Major), 5 MIN, 4:09
Knoxville – Austin Hervey – (Fighting) (Major), 5 MIN, 4:09
Huntsville – Skyler Smutek – (Roughing), 2 MIN, 4:09
Huntsville – Skyler Smutek – (Roughing), 2 MIN, 4:09
Knoxville – Austin Hervey – (Roughing), 2 MIN, 4:09
Knoxville – Austin Hervey – (Roughing), 2 MIN, 4:09
Huntsville – Scott Trask – (Kicking Player) (Match) (49.3), 10 MIN, 4:29
Period 2
Knoxville – Berkley Scott – (Slashing), 2 MIN, 1:01
Huntsville – Derek Perl – (Slashing), 2 MIN, 4:49
Huntsville – Stuart Stefan – (Tripping), 2 MIN, 14:47
Period 3
Knoxville – Marcus Ortiz – (High Sticking), 2 MIN, 10:30
Huntsville – Andy Willigar – (Interference), 2 MIN, 11:27
Knoxville – Austin Hervey – (Hooking), 2 MIN, 14:03
Knoxville – Charlie Granath – (Delay of Game), 2 MIN, 16:43

Game Stats courtesy SPHL/Pointstreak

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