By Bill Vilona, Contributing Writer for the Ice Flyers
Pensacola, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2020) – The Ice Flyers pulled off three uniform changes, had toddlers dressed in comic book heroes’ costumes and a post-game jersey auction that raised thousands for a charitable cause.
The night’s only lament was being unable to pull out a win.
After generating 43 shots on goal, the Ice Flyers exited the ice unfulfilled, following a 2-1 loss Saturday against the Quad City Storm before a crowd of 4,429 on Marvel Super Hero Night at the Pensacola Bay Center.
“We can’t score,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “I thought we played hard and we’re getting lots of opportunities and we can’t score. We gotta find a way.”
The next chance awaits Sunday at 4:05 p.m. in the finale of this weekend’s three-game, home series against Quad City. So far, the Ice Flyers (19-8-7), have come up empty against the Storm and slipped into a three-team tie for fourth place in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings.
Aside from the scoreboard, however, the first Marvel promotion night delivered in a number of ways. The Ice Flyers wore Captain America, Black Panther and Iron Man specialty-designed uniforms in each of the three periods. They received permission to extend both intermissions for the rapid dressing-room changes.
The jerseys were also popular with fans who purchased through online sales and a post-game auction for the Black Panther jerseys worn by players brought a sizable donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida.
“The night was great. I think fans enjoyed it… with the exception of the score,” said Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris. “I think just bringing the power of the Marvel brand to the Ice Flyers hockey brand I think was a great combination.
“Overall it was a success with the different things we were doing throughout the game, but also the jersey auction proceeds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull out the win tonight.”
All 10 teams in the SPHL are hosting Marvel Nights in different points of the season. Harris said it’s a theme night likely to be repeated in the future.
Among Ice Flyers fans, the jerseys were a popular purchase.
“(Sales) have been phenomenal,” Harris said. “We already have a bunch of special orders, because we sold out of a ton of them. With all of our Marvel Ice Flyers T-shirts, we’re close to selling out those. It was great, because it was so unique.
“People were really excited about having something with the Marvel characters and Ice Flyers logo.”
There was a pregame opportunity for fans to meet the Captain America character and take pictures. During the first intermission, there was a children’s and adults costume contest with Marvel characters.
“We have done Super Hero/Princess Nights in the past, but nothing associated with a world-wide brand like Marvel,” Harris said. “So to bring that to Pensacola and now hopefully add that with another one next year, that is going to be a great experience for everybody.”
The missing element, of course, was inability to get more goals. For the second night, veteran minor-league goaltender Peter Di Salvo was a fortress.
Di Salvo, 29, who began his professional hockey career with the Ice Flyers in the 2013-14 season (17 games), is playing for his 10th different minor league team. The Storm is his sixth different stop in the SPHL.
Di Salvo has been peppered by a combined 91 shots on goal from the Ice Flyers in two games this weekend, but has stoned nearly all shooters.
Like Friday’s 3-2 loss, the game started well for the Ice Flyers. With 3:23 left in the first period, Ryan Marcus finished a perfect pass from Garrett Milan with a one-timer shot past Di Salvo.
It proved to be the only time he fished a puck from his goal cage.
The Storm surged back in the second period with goals from Ricky Kramer just 75 seconds into the period, then a deflating one by Taylor Pryce with just eight seconds left in the period.
The Ice Flyers killed off a 5-on-3 power play for more than a minute, following two penalties early in the third period, then had two separate power play chances of their own later in the period. They were 0-for-4 on power plays Saturday, adding to Aldoff’s frustration.
“There’s nothing black or white about it, we can’t score,” he said. “It’s not just (Saturday) or yesterday, it’s been the theme for us for the past month and we’re not scoring goals. It’s as simple as that. We’re getting many Grade A opportunities and shooting at the chest or missing nets.
“You shouldn’t have that many Grade A opportunities and we’ve been getting them a lot in the hockey game. Our shooting is not good.”
The slump has resulted in the Ice Flyers going five consecutive home games without a two-point win. They have lost three of the games in overtime – gaining one point each time — and now twice in two days in regulation-play losses to Quad Cities.
Goal production has been the issue each time.
“We’re playing hard,” Aldoff said. “I thought we played hard and we’re getting lots of opportunities and we can’t score, simple as that. Guys have to bear down.”
ICE FLYERS GAME NOTABLES
The Marvel Night was sponsored by Mediacom and included contests in each intermission with the Super Hero theme.
The National Anthem was performed by the Destin United Methodist Church One Choir. Volunteers and employees from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida unfurled the giant American flag on the ice.
Throughout the game, fans were entertained by Colm Kelly, an Irish singer who has performed at both McGuire’s Irish Pub locations on Gregory Street and in Destin.
Sunday’s weekend finale will honor area First Responders.