PENSACOLA, Fla. – In a game where their coach felt the team didn’t play their best, the Pensacola Ice Flyers were still good enough to ride a strong performance from rookie goaltender Chase Perry, who backstopped the team to a 2-0 victory over the Huntsville Havoc on Friday night. The win moved the Ice Flyers to 10-3-1 on the year and just two points shy of first place.
The first period was an uneventful affair, with the best chance of the frame not even being an official shot on goal. An Ice Flyers rebound was fired behind Havoc goalie Max Milosek. The puck missed the post to Milosek’s right by six inches, the one to his left by two inches, and squirted into the quarter.
After making the fans in attendance hold on to their stuffed animals for the entire first period, the Ice Flyers wasted little time in the second period before sending the bears flying for the annual Teddy Bear Toss. Matt Ustaski forced a turnover and scooped up the loose puck. He skated in through the right wing faceoff circle on a two-on-one. Milosek had to stay alert and respect the pass option so he couldn’t fully commit to stopping Ustaski. Ustaski saw his opening and fired a puck that crossed from Milosek’s left and went in under his right arm. Ustaski’s unassisted effort came just 1:46 into the middle frame.
For the rest of the second period, Huntsville controlled play for the majority of the time. With about three minutes left in the second, it seemed like fate had made it clear that tonight was not going to be Huntsville’s night as Perry made three miraculous saves almost back-to-back-to-back.
In the third period (especially the latter half of the period), Huntsville ratcheted up the pressure and once again. Perry and the Ice Flyers were up to the task. The best hockey of the game came in a 4:26 span after the final media timeout. Huntsville was desperate to tie the game, and Pensacola was not just looking to prevent Huntsville from getting an extra attacker on — they wanted to ice the game.
The two teams traded chances in that 4:26 span of no whistles. The game turned into a track meet with the teams racing up and down the rink, trading chances, and exciting the crowd. Huntsville was finally able to sustain possession enough to get Milosek to the bench for the extra skater, but they were unable to capitalize. On the Ice Flyers’ second attempt from their own end at firing the puck into the open net, Craig Cescon launched one that went right down the middle of the rink and into the net with 17.8 left in the third. Like Ustaski’s, the goal was unassisted.
When all was said and done, Perry made 33 saves to earn his first professional shutout. After the game, Perry was ecstatic about the accomplishment but still credited his success to the team. When asked how this team embraces the cliché of playing for each other and what it does for his game, Perry stated:
“For sure, there were a few times today where I had some not very good rebounds, and we either cleared it or there’s great block right in front of me…shots they had no business blocking some of the shots and doing an awesome job. We play together, play for each other, and it just makes it a lot more fun. Especially when you win.”
Ice Flyers Head Coach Rod Aldoff had nothing but praise for his rookie goalie.
“He won the game for us. Some nights your goalie helps you out, sometimes you help him out. He made some saves tonight that were highlight-reel saves. He was sensational.”
Aldoff also stated that he believes his team is one of the top teams in the league, and tonight showed that.
“We grinded, and we can definitely play better, so that’s our goal for (Saturday). with the same effort and same intensity, just sharpen it up a little bit. We’re doing well, and we have an elite team in this league.”