KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville Ice Bears returned to the ice Friday night against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs, after losing to the Fayetteville Marksmen on home ice the previous week. The Ice Bears haven’t found the back of the net in the first period during the first three games of the year. Knoxville would need to end their opening frame woes Friday night if they wanted to get their first home victory of the year.
In the first period, the Ice Bears would come out of the locker room ready to play. Offensively, the Ice Bears would dump the puck into the zone and crash the boards using their speed to create chaos and a lot of chances. Roanoke tried to chase defensively but were unable to close down on the Ice Bears forwards. Halfway through the first period, Brady Fleurent would find the back of the net for the Ice Bears. Fleurent would put home a pass in stride from Bryce Nielsen, who was near the top of the offensive zone. Before the Rail Yard Dawgs could catch their breath, Marly Quince would crash into the offensive zone and put a snipe past Roanoke’s goaltender Jacob Theut. Knoxville would take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Roanoke mounted more offense in the second period. Brantley Sherwood and Matt Beer led the charge on the forecheck by getting pucks deep into Knoxville’s zone and causing havoc near the net. However, Knoxville’s defense would step up the physical play and keep Roanoke from converting on any of their eight shots on goal in the second period. Alex Carlson and Beer would drop the gloves in the second period after a dust-up in front of Knoxville’s net. Both players would only serve two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. When about Carlson’s willingness to drop the gloves Coach Jeff Carr said,
“You’re just not gonna push our team around this year. We are too tough and too strong this year and it was great to see Carlson lead the way that way.”
Scott Cuthrell extended the Ice Bears lead to three goals when he put a pass to the slot from Quince top-shelf past Theut. Knoxville would take their 3-0 lead into the third period.
The Rail Yard Dawgs would find their bite in the final frame. Roanoke captain Travis Armstrong would lead the Rail Yard Dawgs in making the game more physical and chippy. Knoxville struggled to adapt to Roanoke’s play, which resulted in an outstanding period for the Dawgs.
Up to this moment, the Ice Bears’ penalty killers were perfect through 14 opportunities this season. After Ricky Kramer‘s holding call early in the third period, Sherwood finally put a blemish on Knoxville’s special teams. Roanoke created chaos around the front of the net, and Sherwood was able to put a loose puck in the back of the net. The goal would be the first Knoxville’s penalty killers have given up this season.
After Sherwood’s goal, the fired-up Roanoke squad would continue to take the body and get in deep in the offensive zone, causing a lot of collisions and battles for position in front of Knoxville’s net. Roanoke’s hustle game would continue in the third, and Jeff Jones would score the Rail Yard Dawgs second goal of the game while the Dawgs were down a man – the first shorthanded goal allowed by Knoxville this season.
Roanoke would continue to fight for the game-tying goal but couldn’t crack goalie Hayden Stewart and Knoxville’s defense, which would buckle down late in the third period and secure a victory.
The Ice Bears and Rail Yard Dawgs will complete the home-and-home series Saturday night in Roanoke. Knoxville will need to use their speed to play as they did in the first two periods Friday night if they want to win Saturday. Roanoke will try to carry over their third-period performance and build momentum. Defenseman Jake Schultz will be returning from suspension Saturday and should play a significant role in Roanoke’s physical game.