LAFAYETTE, LA – Calling Josh Cousineau‘s President Cup-winning goal a last-second miracle would be an understatement.

Last tenth-of-a-second-goal is more accurate.

With overtime in Game 3 of the President’s Cup Final at the Pensacola Bay Center almost a given, Cousineau found himself in the slot as teammate Ryan Kesti feeds him the puck through traffic from the left side of the net. Cousineau, reaching, stabs at the puck with his stick. The desparation shot threads under Peoria forward Connor Toomey‘s stick and past goaltender David Jacobson. The puck hits the back of the net as the green lamp lights up.

At the last possible instant, the Pensacola Ice Flyers are the champions of the Southern Professional Hockey League for the third time in four seasons.

Pensacola defeated the Peoria Rivermen, 5-4, in a wild Game 3 of the President’s Cup Final. The Ice Flyers completed a three game sweep of the Rivermen to become the first team to go 7-0 in SPHL postseason play. Pensacola netminder Matt Zenzola earned all seven wins to earn playoff MVP honors. Zenzola also became the first goalie to go 7-0 in the playoffs.

Earlier in the evening, the Rivermen drew first blood in the opening period on Connor Toomey’s third goal of the postseason. However, before the first act ended, the Ice Flyers would score two goals 37 seconds apart from Adam Pawlick and Brandon Zurn to give Pensacola the lead at the end of the first period.

The Ice Flyers took control of the game in the second period, dominating play in their end for most of the period. However, the Rivermen would get the only score in the middle frame. Chris Wilson put home a rebound goal at the 1:51 mark to tie the game, and the score remained 2-2 going into the second intermission.

When the third period began, the game began taking on the intensity of a heavyweight championship bout. The two titans of the SPHL went toe-to-toe, each trying to knock the other out. Pensacola’s Joe Holka took the first shot, beating Jacobson at the 1:19 mark to give the Flyers their second lead of the game.

With Pensacola captain Adam Pawlick in the penalty box, the Rivermen came up clutch on the power play. Mike Gurtler scored with the man advantage at the 8:51 mark to deadlock the game at 3-3. Eight seconds later, Peoria sniper Chris Wilson would get whistled for holding. The Ice Flyers, scoreless on the power play this series, would finally get a goal with the man advantage. Defenseman Drew Baker would score from the right side to put Pensacola up 4-3 with 10:13 remaining in regulation. Pensacola’s latest lead lasted only 30 seconds. Adam Stuart gave the Rivermen new life when he scored to tie the game at 4-4.

Then… things really began to get interesting.

With 2:47 remaining in regulation, Rivermen forward Ben Power gets called for boarding. The referees then ding Peoria forward Benjamin Rubin for verbal abuse, and the Ice Flyers found themselves with a five-on-three power play to possibly win the game. Peoria’s special teams unit then put on a monumental penalty kill – allowing only one shot on goal despite playing two men short on the ice.

Which leads us to the final eight seconds… Paul Chestnutt with the call.

Congratulations to the Pensacola Ice Flyers on their third President’s Cup championship! Stick taps to the Peoria Rivermen on their record-breaking season.

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