KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Ice Bears returned to the Civic Coliseum Saturday night to face off with Pensacola Ice Flyers in the second game of their weekend series. Knoxville defeated Pensacola 3-0 Friday night, with the Ice Bears led by a Joseph Murdaca shutout. The Ice Flyers were going to turn up the intensity and play even harder Saturday night; Knoxville would need to match Pensacola’s intensity if they wanted to sweep the weekend.

Pensacola came out of the gates ready to play in the first period with a goal by Patrick Megannety just ten seconds into the game. The Ice Flyers were able to stun the Ice Bears for the first few minutes of the first period. However, Knoxville would eventually find their footing, and Lucas Bombardier would find the back of the net on a shot that would sneak past Chase Perry.

Bombardier’s goal would be a catalyst for the Ice Bears, as Knoxville would put two more goals on the board during the first period. The first goal was scored by Brian Bachnak after he was able to deflect the puck in front of the net. The goal was not only Bachnak’s first goal of the year, but it was his first goal as a professional. The second goal was scored by Stefan Brucato, as he received an imaginative stretch pass from Bombardier. Knoxville and Pensacola would battle the rest of the period, but the first intermission score would be 3-1, Knoxville.

The second period would start just like the first for the Ice Flyers, as Tommaso Bucci would find the back of the net just 16 seconds into the second period. Both teams would continue to battle in the second period. Pensacola would try to dump the puck into Knoxville’s zone and stretch out the Ice Bears defense to create chances. Knoxville would use speed on the forecheck to creative havoc on their offensive zone. However, neither team was budging until Knoxville’s Anthony McVeigh was able to find the back of the net on a pass from Brady Fleurent with just seven seconds left in the second. The period would end in a 4-2 Ice Bears lead.

As the third period started, Knoxville was able to keep Pensacola from finding the back of the net in the first minute (unlike the first two periods). Pensacola would come out of the locker room and continue to push the pace and play their style of hockey. The push from the Ice Flyers would pay off, as Megannety would score his second goal of the game early in the third period. Knoxville would try to slow down the Ice Flyers, but Pensacola just kept playing a relentless offensive style. Joseph Drapluk would tie the game for Pensacola halfway through the third period. Knoxville was able to keep Pensacola’s offense from doing any more and get the game to overtime.

To start the 3-on-3 overtime, Knoxville sent out Charlie Granath, Scott Cuthrell, and McVeigh. Pensacola countered with Matt Ustaski, Blake Young and Meirs Moore. When asked how he decided the trio to start the overtime, coach Jeff Carr said:

“I didn’t want to give up anything cheap and easy, Granath being the defensive defenseman he is. He wouldn’t allow for that. He’s not gonna handle the puck, so you put those two speedy guys out there and they have to create by themselves.”

Create they did, just 21 seconds into overtime. McVeigh took a stretch pass from Cuthrell and blew by the Pensacola defense before beating Perry for the game-winning goal.

Knoxville picked up their fifth straight win with the victory tonight. The win was hard-fought, and when asked about his team’s resiliency and toughness, Carr said:

“We’ve really tried to do a good job of having honest guys who absolutely love the game of hockey and care for each other. At the end of the day, they want to win. If you’re not competitive, you don’t belong in our locker room. When you have a bunch of competitive guys, they’re gonna want to win games and not be affected and fold up shop after goals, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Knoxville will look to continue their win streak when they take on the Evansville Thunderbolts on Wednesday night at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.

Follow JT Russell on Twitter for his in-depth coverage of the SPHL’s Knoxville Ice Bears!

Please consider becoming a Patron as a way to say thanks and support us for what we do! https://www.patreon.com/thesinbinhockey