PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Pensacola Ice Flyers didn’t get the win they were hoping Santa would bring them before the Christmas break, but they are off to an amazing 7-1-1 record at home. Saturday’s 3-2 loss at the hands of the Huntsville Havoc was Pensacola’s only regulation loss inside the Bay Center.

After this past weekend’s action, the Ice Flyers currently sit third place in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They are five points behind the first-place Peoria Rivermen and trail the second-place Knoxville Ice Bears by just three points. They have two games in hand on the Ice Bears and one on the Rivermen.

This weekend, the Ice Flyers face a tough stretch of three games in three nights with a bus trip mixed in for good measure. They host the Macon Mayhem tonight, then travel to Huntsville to face the Havoc Friday night, before returning to the Hangar to face off against the Birmingham Bulls Saturday evening.

If you look at the games from this season, things look like they’re going to favor Pensacola this weekend. Macon and Pensacola have squared off twice this season with the Ice Flyers doubling up Macon both times (6-3 on Nov. 27 and 4-2 on Nov. 30). That’s a small sample size but the Ice Flyers have more experience against Birmingham with a total of five games this season, all of them going in favor of the Ice Flyers.

Huntsville will be the toughest test of the weekend. The Havoc are also responsible for the Ice Flyers other home loss, a 4-3 overtime decision earlier this month. All three games have been tight, with Pensacola’s 2-0 win being the only game that wasn’t decided by one goal. Friday’s matchup will be the first of the season in Huntsville.

With 18 games played, the Ice Flyers are essentially a third of the way through the regular season. The grind of the season gets underway in earnest now. This weekend’s three-in-three is the first of four remaining in the season and it doesn’t include multiple stretches with three games in four or five days.

Health, or at least being lucky enough to have minor enough injuries that they can be played through, will be key for Ice Flyers moving forward. The core of the Pensacola roster has stayed mostly intact. This will pay dividends down the road as familiarity will likely breed success in the tough situations where any small advantage can lead to success.

Despite the majority of the core staying the same, there are two big holes that were recently opened with forward Eddie Matsushima and goalie Chase Perry being called up to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. It remains to be seen if Matsushima will return, but Perry will not be back in the Ice Flyers’ lineup tonight.

Both the ECHL and the SPHL had their Christmas roster freeze with the SPHL not announcing transactions on the 24th or 25th and the ECHL not announcing moves on the 25th. Matsushima’s name is listed on the ECHL transactions, but Perry hasn’t shown up yet, despite the SPHL and the Ice Flyers announcing his loan to Orlando on the 22nd.

If Perry isn’t back with Pensacola, Jake Kupsky is more than capable of backstopping the Ice Flyers through the weekend. He’s appeared in three games and won all three of them posting an impressive 2.00 goals-against average and a 0.924 save percentage. Also of note is who Kupsky’s three wins have come against: one against Birmingham and two against Macon.

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