LAFAYETTE, LA – The 2016 SPHL President’s Cup Final started up exactly as advertised last night at Peoria’s Carver Arena. The Pensacola Ice Flyers proved they belonged in the championship series by jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Brandon Zurn and Joe Caveney. Peoria, the regular-season champions, showed why they earned the SPHL’s best-ever season by coming back with a second period tally by Adam Stuart. The Rivs showed their mental toughness after a controversial goal reversal with about seven minutes remaining by following up with Walker Wintoneak‘s goal with 3:53 remaining.

With two evenly matched teams in a championship series, it’s fitting the game was decided in overtime. Joe Holka continued his stellar playoff season with his fourth goal of the postseason at the 6:35 mark of the fourth period to give the Ice Flyers the first game in the best-of-five series. Game Two will take place today in Carver Arena at 4:05pm CT.


2:29 1st Period – Pensacola’s Brandon Zurn opens the scoring after getting behind the Peoria defense and getting an open back-door rebound. The goal ends Peoria netminder Kyle Rank‘s shutout streak at 159:28. Pensacola 1, Peoria 0

4:55 1st Period

– Peoria’s Dan Bremner gets an open look down the slot at Pensacola’s Matt Zenzola, but Zenzola drops the pads to keep Peoria from tying the game early.

4:09 2nd Period – Joe Caveney converts on a 2-on-1 break against Kyle Rank after a double-pump forehand. Rank commits on Caveney’s initial deke, then the Pensacola forward slides the puck past the right post.

The Overturned Goal

12:55 3rd Period – Walker Wintoneak splits the defense and gets a puck on Zenzola. Wintoneak initally appears to get his own rebound past Zenzola, but after review the goal was disallowed.

Here’s the center-ice replay. From this view, you can see the loose puck from the inital shot sitting in the middle of the crease. Wintoneak’s momentum carries him into Zenzola before his skate deflects the puck into the net.

Finally, the view from behind Zenzola’s net. You can see the puck coming off the moorings after the puck crosses the line. Also, the contact made between Wintoneak and Zenzola prior to the puck crossing.

After further review… Had this been an NHL game, the goal would have been disallowed due to the contact between Wintoneak and Zenzola. Since video review isn’t available in the SPHL (yet), I’m glad the SPHL took the time to get the viewpoints between the officials to get the call right on the ice.

The Equalizer – Take Two

16:07 3rd Period – Three minutes and twelve seconds later… The hockey gods get their justice on Walker Wintoneak. Wintoneak, posted in front of Zenzola’s crease, deflects Ben Power’s drive from the point to deadlock the game at two goals a piece.

Holka’s Game-Ending Drive

Six minutes and thirty-five seconds into overtime, Joe Holka gets a rush into the zone, then snaps the puck above Rank’s glove to end Game 1.

The Sin Bin’s Three Stars

★ – Joe Holka, Pensacola – Game winning goal in OT? Take the head seat at the table, Joe…

★★ – Walker Wintoneak, Peoria – The hockey gods will provide.

★★★ – Paul Rodrigues, Pensacola – The playmaker set up two goals, including Holka’s game winner.

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