KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- The Knoxville Ice Bears returned to Knoxville Civic Coliseum Friday night to begin a two-game homestand against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. Knoxville came into the game looking to build off of a win at Birmingham on Tuesday night. Roanoke lost to Macon Saturday night and need to pick up points if they want to make the playoffs.
The early portion of the first period was slightly sloppy by both teams as they were looking to find their game while shutting down the other team. Knoxville was able to lock in their defensive plan and fill up the neutral zone to create offense. Roanoke’s Joe Osaka laid a hard hit on a Knoxville player that would be called as a hit to the head. Lucas Bombardier made Roanoke pay for taking an early penalty by scoring on the power play.
After the goal, both teams continued to feel out the game and not give away easy chances. Midway through the first period, Gehrett Sargis would get called for high sticking. Just a few seconds into the power play, Jeff Jones would tie the game. The rest of the first period would be evenly matched with no one giving an inch, but with 31 seconds left in the first, Scott Cuthrell gave Knoxville the lead going into the first intermission.
The second period was much like the first with neither team pushing the pace of play. Knoxville stuck to their game plan and created offense through their neutral zone set up. Roanoke, like many teams, struggle to carry the puck into the offensive zone, so they resorted to a dump and chase style that gave Knoxville the ability to have odd-man rushes when breaking out of the defensive zone.
Sargis and Josh Pietrantonio would be successful in an odd-man rush when Pietrantonio found Sargis across the crease and Sargis gave Knoxville a 3-1 lead. Stefan Brucato would follow with a goal of his own just four minutes later. Brucato sniped home a puck that bounced to his stick in the slot off of a Cuthrell faceoff win to give Knoxville a 4-1 lead going into the third period.
The third period was very physical, as both teams wanted to set the tone for game two Saturday. Early in the period, Alex Carlson and Brandon Wahlin would battle in front of goalie Cody Porter, which quickly turned into a fight as Carlson wrestled Wahlin to the ground. After the fight, Tucker Ross and Bryce Martin would have a fight of their own that would see both players ejected for a second altercation. Dwyer Tschantz would score early in the third period using his long frame and release to freeze goalie Austyn Roudebush. Brad Riccardi got Roanoke’s second goal of the game, but any thoughts of a comeback would end there for the Rail Yard Dawgs, as Knoxville would finish off a 5-2 win.
Knoxville and Roanoke will meet again Saturday night. When asked about what his team needed to do to try and get another win tomorrow, Knoxville Head Coach Jeff Carr said:
“We have to be better early. Shots are 8-8 after 17 minutes of play, and if we don’t score a power play goal and they get a cheap one, we’re hearing the soft music and looking at each other after the first. We need to start games with an attitude for how we play with and without the puck. We can’t be on autopilot.
“We have been too much but guys covered for each other. Scott (Cuthrell) played defense on a shift where Sargis was rushing up. We have Pierre Ouellette eating a lot of big minutes when David Brancik is banged up. Carlson got stronger as the game went on. Sargis obviously dropped back to defense. All those things, that’s what a team is: you’re picking up slack when you need, it but other than that you’re just doing your job.”
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