PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Pensacola Ice Flyers put on multiple clinics in their opening night 3-2 overtime win over the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. They started strong, responded well to adversity, and did not get frustrated when their chances were repeatedly stymied but a white-hot goalie.
The first period started off all Ice Flyers. Pensacola dominated the earlier chances but couldn’t manage to work the puck behind Roanoke goalie Stephen Klein. Things started to shift to favor the Rail Yard Dawgs, but the Ice Flyers played a high puck pressure game and blocked a ton of shots. The official count ended up being 13-9 Ice Flyers, but it could have easily been at least 15 shots for Roanoke.
The Ice Flyers almost started the scoring after a dumb mistake by Roanoke defenseman Josh Nenandal tripped Ryan Marcuz. Marcuz was bearing down on Klein and had a step on Nenandal but Klein was well-positioned and there was another Dawgs defenseman close behind for backup. Marcuz was awarded a penalty shot but failed to convert after he skated right down the slot and couldn’t beat Klein. After that, the Dawgs continued to pressure the Ice Flyers in the offensive zone and eventually were rewarded with 1.4 seconds left in the first as Brant Sherwood tapped in the rebound of a Brandon Wahlin shot.
Whatever Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff said in the first intermission, it worked. The Ice Flyers came out thirsty for blood and defensively sound. Pensacola peppered Klein with 24 shots on goal and plenty more whizzed just wide or were blocked right before they reached the net. Two of those shots found twine as rookie defenseman Meirs Moore netted two goals in 3:21 to put the Ice Flyers up 2-1. Both goals were assisted by Garrett Milan and Eddie Matsushima. The first was a long shot that went in clean and the second deflected off Roanoke’s Travis Armstrong.
Moore remarked about his two-goal performance in his first professional game, “I’ve been waiting for this game for a while. I thought the team came out hot. It was kind of a surprise the first one went in. It was a knuckle puck, it dipped and dove.”
In the third period, the Ice Flyers continued their dominating ways. The team had chance after chance and maintained the pressure virtually constantly. Klein just continued to make one ridiculous save after another.
During a stoppage of play with 1:48 remaining in the third period, Roanoke coach Dan Bremner made the decision to pull Klein and send out an extra attacker. That decision paid dividends just 18 seconds later as a rebound bounced off Flyers goalie Chase Perry right into the slot where Brad Riccardi fired it in to tie the game.
Tied at two after regulation, the game went into an extra frame but that wouldn’t last long. Matsushima, Milan, and Jesse Kessler started the overtime period for the Ice Flyers, and they would end it before even making a change.
Matsushima used his speed to draw in two of the Dawgs to leave open Milan. Matsushima then passed it over to Milan, who tried to stickhandle to make Klein commit to a position, but the puck slipped away, and Matsushima jumped on the loose puck and put it home. Both Matsushima and Milan finished the game with three-point nights.
“Me and Garrett have been working quite a bit in practice and obviously both of us are pretty fast guys. We’ve been playing off each other really well,” Matsushima said of his chemistry with Milan. “I could see him on my backside coming in. So, when I cut across, both guys sucked to me. Garrett tried to make a move, that puck popped out in the crease, then it went in.”
After the game, coach Aldoff stated it was good to get the win. He would have preferred to win it in regulation, but he was very pleased with the way the team played.
When asked about the Ice Flyers’ strong start and even stronger response to Roanoke’s push back, Aldoff stated, “there wasn’t much (that was said). We played well in the first and they got that late goal which was a learning experience. What I addressed was the period’s not over until it’s over. We just got a little sleepy but on the flip side, we’re a young team. If those mistakes happen, it’s good they’re happening now so they can learn from it. They’re a smart group of guys and they’re resilient. They knew and they got it right away.”
Roanoke and Pensacola play each other again tonight, at 7:35 pm CT.
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