By: Bill Vilona – Contributing Writer of the Pensacola Ice Flyers
Pensacola, Fla. (Nov. 18, 2019) – The Ice Flyers’ latest player with flair for dramatics had a Sunday confession to make.
Tommaso Bucci had his eyes closed for the split-second when an air bound puck at shin level approached his stick.
He swung. Made contact. Then heard the crowd’s roar.
Bucci was quickly embraced by a mob of teammates, after his goal with 13 seconds remaining gave the Ice Flyers a 5-4 victory Sunday against the Quad Cities Storm, completing another unbeaten home weekend at the Pensacola Bay Center for a team with penchant for these skate off style wins.
“We love our fans, so we want to keep them in the seats until the last second of the game,” said Bucci, laughing, a 24-year-old rookie from Franklin Park, N.Y. “No, we would rather not have it be that dramatic. But it’s good fun.”
For the Ice Flyers, it’s been that way.
In scoring their most goals this season, the Ice Flyers (6-2) remained unbeaten at home with three overtime wins and Sunday’s victory in the final seconds.
They trailed three times in the game, including 2-0 in the first period, only to answer back, then get the go-ahead goal when it counted most.
“I told the guys my hairline is going back further and further back,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “The way we are pulling things out here, but these type of games, this time of year, really make a team grow.”
Meirs Moore tied the game with 2:10 left, just seconds after the arena emcee, Josh Gay, brought up the food promotion from sponsor Moe’s if the Ice Flyers score in the final three minutes.
The Ice Flyers kept pressing, just as they did all game. And they were rewarded.
Bucci had just hopped off the bench in the final 30 seconds in final rush into the Storm’s zone.
“I saw (play) kick out wide,” he said. “I came across, I was calling for it, because I thought it was going to come to me.
“As I saw the puck hit the back of the boards, I was like ‘Oh, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon!’ I saw (puck) bounce up and I just closed my eyes, took a baseball swing and hoped for the best.”
His short, perfectly legal swat, sent the puck past Quad Cities goaltender Peter Di Salvo, who was peppered all game in another shot barrage. The Ice Flyers finished with a 42-19 edge.
“I really didn’t see it go in,” Bucci said.
But it did. And the Ice Flyers won.
“If he can bat more in by closing his eyes, then go right ahead,” Aldoff said, jokingly.
The game was tied 3-3 after two periods and a wide disparity in shots. The Ice Flyers had a 32-12 edge even with killing a pair of penalties.
The Ice Flyers controlled play in Quad Cities zone except for one costly lapse. The Storm’s Taylor Pryce won a loose puck battle along the boards near center ice and got a shot past Perry just 1:41 into the period.
At that point, Quad Cities had three goals on eight shots. But less than two minutes later, the Ice Flyers Michael Ederer scored his first professional goal to tie the game.
Ederer got a pass from Garrett Milan and delivered. The remaining 16 minutes of the period, however, the Ice Flyers had chances but could not get a go-ahead goal.
The same held true in the third period. Frustration ensued when Quad Cities got a go-ahead goal on a deflected shot with 9:15 left. It left a crowd on “Friends and Family Night” glum until the final few minutes.
“We really believe in ourselves, especially at home,” Bucci said. “We have great fan support and we never want to quit on them. We know if we try as hard as we can, go as hard as we can, teams can’t keep up with us.
“You saw that the last two nights. We just don’t quit. Doesn’t matter if there is one minute left, 13 seconds left, 10 minutes left. We are going as hard as we can.
“It would have been frustrating (to lose this game), but it was really never in our mind. We said we’re not losing at home.”
The first 20 minutes featured the most goals in a home game period this season. Three of those were scored less than a minute apart.
After midpoint of the opening period, Quad Cities scored a pair of goals just 55 seconds apart to take a 2-0 lead. Dakota Klecha banked a shot from the side of the net off traffic in front for the game’s first goal. The Storm got the next off a turnover in front that leading scorer Shane Bennett pounced and rifled a shot past Ice Flyers goalie Chase Perry.
But 10 seconds later, the Ice Flyers Garrett Milan flipped the emotional edge and got the crowd into the game.
He took a pass from Ryan Marcuz and found a big opening for his second goal this season.
The Ice Flyers then tied the game 10 seconds after killing a penalty. Eddie Matsushima got a pass between the faceoff circles and rifled a low wrist shot past De Salvo to tie the game with 1:54 left in the period.
“Some of the goals they got, we love to have back. I’m sure Chase would love to have a couple back,” Aldoff said. “It would have been a bad taste in our month if we didn’t win that game because we played so well up and down the ice. The good thing is obviously a win.”
ICE FLYERS NOTABLES
Following Sunday’s game all the players met with fans for 30 minutes on the arena concourse for an autograph session.
The game was designated as a Friends and Family Night. For $60 in advance purchase, the Ice Flyers provided four center ice tickets, four hats, a $25 voucher from Texas Roadhouse and a voucher for a night of bowling with family at Cordova Lane. It was $240 worth of value.
The Ice Flyers had a jersey auction after Saturday’s game for the specialty camo jerseys on Mossy Oak Night. The top jerseys were purchased for $400-plus.