KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- The Knoxville Ice Bears returned to the Knoxville Civic Coliseum Saturday night to take on the Peoria Rivermen. Peoria got shutout in Evansville on Friday night by a score of 2-0. The Ice Bears beat Roanoke Friday night, 3-1, finding a new intensity to their game they had not seen in a while. Knoxville would need to bring that intensity to be able to play with Peoria.

In the first period, both teams were looking to set the tone early. Jason Price and Alec Hagaman would take matching roughing calls just one minute into the game to start the festivities.

“That was everything; Price is part of the heart and soul of this team,” said Knoxville Head Coach Jeff Carr. “He’s been here through the thick and thin all year. He wanted to set the tone for the boys and he for sure did.”

The play on the ice would continue to heat up as Dwyer Tschantz and Jake Hamilton dropped the gloves and had a spirited bout in the Knoxville offensive zone. Shortly after the fight, Jordan Carvalho would get Peoria a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.

Knoxville, unlike previous weeks, didn’t let their foot off the gas pedal. Brian Bachnak got the Ice Bears going when he dropped the gloves with Skyler Smutek behind a Peoria offensive rush. The Bachnak fight brought energy to Knoxville as they started to push the pace offensively, leading to multiple goals. Lucas Bombardier got Knoxville on the board when he tipped home a shot from the blue line. Josh Pietrantonio would follow it up with a snipe from the slot to give Knoxville a 2-1 lead. Tschantz would finish the Knoxville scoring barrage with a goal seven seconds before the end of the first period, giving Knoxville a 3-1 lead.

The second period wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the first. Knoxville sat back in the neutral zone and decide to put the pressure on Peoria to make plays. The Rivermen had control of the puck for most of the period, but Knoxville’s defense kept them from getting high-quality scoring chances. Newcomers Cody Walsh and Tucker Ross brought an excellent defensive presence that shook up the Rivermen. Late in the second, Bachnak and Pietrantonio created havoc in the offensive zone that would lead to Bachnak scoring Knoxville’s fourth goal of the night. Peoria would try and score late in the second period, but Knoxville would carry their 4-1 lead into the third.

Knoxville continued their defensive game plan into the third period that continued to stifle the Rivermen. Peoria started to dump the puck deep into the offensive zone to try and get past Knoxville’s clogged neutral zone. Hagaman would be the beneficiary of this game plan, as he scored Peoria’s second goal of the game halfway through the third period.

However, Knoxville didn’t let the goal discourage them, as they stuck to their game plan of tough defense and physicality. Peoria pulled their goalie with under two minutes left in the third period, and a mental mistake by Hagaman would lead to an own goal that is credited to Cuthrell. The mistake sealed up the game for Knoxville, giving them a 5-2 win and an important two points.

When asked about the game plan for game two Sunday afternoon, Carr said:

“Their defensemen are probably a little more tired than ours. everyone is tired in a three-in-three, but we have to be opportunistic and put the gas pedal down on loose pucks.

“I think we can try to play a little more offense tomorrow. I don’t think we have to sit and just accept as much as we did tonight — we did that on purpose. We just need to turn up the volume in the offensive zone.”

Puck drop is set for 3:00 PM EST Sunday afternoon at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.

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