It was a hat-stravaganza last night in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Three players hit the sniping trifecta: Teammates Mark Pustin & Kyle McNeil of the Knoxville Ice Bears and Fayetteville FireAntz forward Tayler Thompson. Friday night was also a time of redemption for the defending President’s Cup champions and the William B. Coffey winners. Both the Pensacola Ice Flyers and Peoria Rivermen secured their first victories of the season. The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs defeated the Evansville Thunderbolts for their first-ever franchise victory and Dawgs coach Sam Ftorek & Pensacola bench boss Kevin Hasselberg scored their first wins in the professional ranks as head coaches.
Saturday night in the SPHL, like last week, are all rematches of Friday night’s matches. The Huntsville Havoc & Ice Bears and the Columbus Cottonmouths & Ice Flyers will switch venues in their home-and-home series.
Title Belt Game: Knoxville Ice Bears at Huntsville Havoc
Last night, the Ice Bears successfully defended the Title Belt for the third time with a 7-3 mauling of Huntsville at the Knoxville Civic Center. The Ice Bears started and finished strong, scoring three goals in both the first and third periods. Tonight, the scene switches to Rocket City as the Havoc attempt to split the home-and-home series with their archrivals. History may favor the Havoc tonight. The last time the two teams played a two-game home-and-home series was on December 26-27, 2013. The home team won both games.
Peoria Rivermen at Macon Mayhem
The Rivermen bounced back from a tumultuous week after the releasing of goaltenders Shannon Szabados and Storm Phaneuf. After the Mayhem scored three goals by the early moments of the second period and chasing Peoria netminder Matt Grogan in favor of Tyler Green, the Rivermen settled down and engineered a come-from-behind 4-3 victory thanks to late-game heroics from Cody Dion. The Mayhem have yet to defeat the Rivermen in the regular season.
Mississippi RiverKings at Fayetteville FireAntz
Tayler Thompson’s hat trick paced the FireAntz to their third straight victory to open the season as the Antz stung Mississippi for four goals, while Sean Bonar stopped 23 of 24 shots in Fayetteville’s 4-1 victory. Scores may sometimes be settled in the final game of a weekend set, and fans may see a heavyweight battle between Mississippi’s Tyler Barr and Brad Drobot of Fayetteville.
Columbus Cottonmouths at Pensacola Ice Flyers
Pensacola finally took flight last night at the Columbus Civic Center, getting goals from four different players, including former Snake Louis Belisle. President’s Cup playoffs MVP Matt Zenzola had a quality game in net for Pensacola, stopping 38 of 39 shots. Craig Simchuk netted the lone marker for the Cottonmouths. Tonight, the Flyers look to win their first game of the season in the Hangar.
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs at Evansville Thunderbolts
In the first ever meeting between the expansion teams at the Ford Center in Evansville, the Rail Yard Dawgs got a sensational performance from goaltender Brandon Anderson and a two-goal game from Steve Mele as the Dawgs – and Coach Ftorek – racked up their first SPHL victory. John Scorcia and Luke Sandler scored for Evansville in a losing cause.
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