KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Ice Bears returned to the Civic Coliseum Thursday night after a quick Christmas break. Knoxville would welcome the Huntsville Havoc to the Coliseum for a post-Christmas battle. Coming off of a 6-3 victory against Evansville on December 21, Knoxville would look to begin a winning streak heading into the new year. However, to make that happen, Knoxville would have to slow down the white-hot Havoc, who would be bringing in a four-game win streak.
The past few weeks, the first period has been where the Ice Bears have played their best hockey, and Thursday night would be no different. Knoxville put an incredible pace into their forecheck to start the game, and would create a massive amount of opportunities in front of Max Milosek’s net. Milosek would make some incredible saves early in the period to stifle the Ice Bears.
However, as the period went along, Brady Fleurent was able to put a cross-crease pass on Scott Cuthrell’s stick that Cuthrell would put past Milosek to give Knoxville a 1-0 lead. Midway through the period, Brian Bachnak and Chance Braid got into a spirited fight after Braid laid a big hit on Cooper Jones. The Ice Bears onslaught would continue and Milosek would continue to amaze, but with a few seconds left in the first period, Cuthrell fed a pass into the slot that would go off Lionel Mauron’s stick and through Milosek’s five-hole. The Ice Bears carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Huntsville came out in the second period and started to impose their style of play. Saverio Posa would start the Huntsville scoring when he raced up the ice by himself and scored from the right circle. Both teams would turn up the intensity that this rivalry is known for as they tried to assert their will. Knoxville’s first line would continue their rampage and Gehrett Sargis would beat Milosek after a scramble of chances in front of the net. The Sargis goal seemed to galvanize the veteran Havoc, and Sy Nutkevitch would score a goal of his own just a few minutes later to give us a second intermission score of 3-2, Knoxville.
In the third period, Huntsville found their groove, which spelled trouble for Knoxville. Huntsville’s impressive play started early in the third period, as they were able to disjoint the Ice Bears offense and create great chances from their defense. The effort would payoff for Huntsville. as Ryan Verbeek would find the back of the net at the 6:55 mark of the final regulation frame.
Verbeek’s goal would be the final momentum shift in the game. as Huntsville would get three more goals in under three minutes from Rob Darrar, Pat Condon and a second from Verbeek. Cuthrell would try to help mount an Ice Bears comeback as he scored Knoxville’s fourth goal of the night 13:44 into the third period. However, Huntsville would have none of it, as Nutkevitch scored Huntsville’s seventh goal of the game and finished off the Ice Bears.
When asked about what turned the tide in Huntsville’s favor in the second period, Knoxville Head Coach Jeff Carr said:
“They had bus legs and after the holidays, they were sluggish. We had a great first period, but they ran walls and forechecked with an extra guy. We turned over the puck four times in the first five minutes. We were giving odd-man rushes. When you give odd-man rushes to a team with two championships, bad things are gonna happen. We kind of gave it to them on a silver platter here tonight.”
Knoxville will have a chance to bounce back as they hit the road for a Friday night matchup against the Fayetteville Marksmen before returning to the Civic Coliseum Saturday night against the same Fayetteville team.
Follow JT on Twitter for live, in-game coverage with news and notes on the Ice Bears along the way! Don’t forget to “like” The Sin Bin on Facebook for all additional SPHL, ECHL, and AHL minor league hockey coverage!