MACON, Ga- For the fifth time in franchise history, the Pensacola Ice Flyers are bound for the SPHL President’s Cup Finals.
The Ice Flyers led for the first time in the third period on Friday and stayed there, winning 4-2 as third-seeded Pensacola swept second-seeded Knoxville in the best-of-three semifinal round.
The Ice Flyers now await the winner of Macon and Huntsville, which resume their series on Saturday in Macon. Should Huntsville win that series, Pensacola would have home-ice advantage in the finals.
Trailing 2-1 after two periods as the goalie play of Jake Kupsky kept the Ice Flyers close, on Friday, that persistence paid off. 12:09 into the third, Garrett Milan was in the perfect position to pounce on a loose puck in front of the Knoxville net, and that effort paid off to the tune of a 2-2 score by way of the power-play goal.
The goal amped up the energy of the crowd at the Pensacola Bay Center, and it reached an apex shortly after. Jordan Ernst came up with an errant puck near the right slot, and he quickly shot it past Knoxville goalie Peter Di Salvo for what ended up being the go-ahead goal. Di Salvo stopped 36 of of 39 shots.
As for Kupsky, he had 18 saves, and few were bigger than with 4:28 to go when he stopped a breakaway try that could have tied the game. He and the Ice Flyers held on from there, turning back both a Knoxville power-play in the closing minutes as well as a flurry of Ice Bears shots with an extra attacker on the ice. Brennan Blaszczak added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds for the Ice Bears.
For two periods, it appeared that Knoxville would hold the edge. With Di Salvo in net after relieving Austyn Roudebush in Wednesday’s first game of the series, the only Ice Flyers goal came 14:47 into the second when Frederic Letourneau tied the score following a first-period goal by Knoxville’s Scott Cuthrell. The 1-1 tie would be broken later in the second on a goal by Anthony McVeigh.