Ice Flyers fall to Havoc in first, regulation-play, home loss
Bill Vilona • PensacolaIceFlyers.com Correspondent
For the first time this season, the Ice Flyers exited the Pensacola Bay Center without a point. But it was not an empty feeling.
Trailing 2-0 in the first intermission, the Ice Flyers tied the game Saturday night in the second period, gave up a short-handed goal late in the period that proved decisive, but had enough chances in an eventual 3-2 loss against the Huntsville Havoc that reflected their effort.
“I thought we played well. It just came down to a bounce or two,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “The shorthanded goal was tough to swallow. But as a coach, we look at how we’re playing with the work ethic, the execution.
“I thought we have done that well very well so far this season. We have a tremendous group of guys. They enjoy each other. We have a good team.”
It was the Ice Flyers (12-4-2) first regulation-play, home loss, in their nine games so far at the Bay Center. The Havoc won here in overtime (4-3) on Dec. 7. This one, however, ended a streak of eight consecutive games overall with a least one point.
The Ice Flyers’ last regulation-play loss was before Thanksgiving, a 3-0 setback Nov. 22 at Knoxville.
The team will now take a short break for Christmas, return to practice on Christmas night (Wednesday) and prepare for a Thursday home game (6:35 p.m.) against the Macon Mayhem. The Ice Flyers play three games in three days, including a return trip to Huntsville next Friday.
“We are playing properly and that’s why we have a tremendous home record.” Aldoff said.
The second period Saturday became the most eventful one.
The Ice Flyers scored goals seven minutes apart to tie the game. Tommaso Bucci flicked a wrist shot along the ice from the slot area for their first goal less than five minutes into the period.
Garret Milan then tied the game when he got a pass off the boards from Brett D’Andrea and rifled a shot past Huntsville goaltender Max Milosek with 8:36 left for his eighth goal this season.
They got their only power play chance – there were only two penalties called in the game – with 4:17 remaining. But with four seconds left on the power play, the Havoc’s Sy Nutkevitch pounced on a turnover, walked in on Ice Flyers goaltender Chase Perry and beat him with a backhand shot for the go-ahead goal.
Nutkevitch scored in the first period on power play and was named No. 1 star.
“The disappointing part was we gave up a shorthanded goal,” Aldoff said. “We gave up two goals where we lost a couple battles… things we could fix.”
One of those battles came with 21.7 seconds left in the first period on the Havoc’s only power play. After Perry was unable to corral the puck in traffic, Nutkevitch poked the puck enough for it to cross past the red line for a 2-0 lead.
“Two goals that we gave up there were battles and you have to win those battles,” Aldoff said. “You have to be on the defensive side. You got to battle and if you can get puck, get the puck and if you have to fight it out you do that.
“But you can’t get on those wrong side of those battles in house as we call it… that slot area. We made a couple mistakes there. We know better and we’ll get better.”
The Ice Flyers trailed 2-0 after they struggled through the first period. The Havoc scored less than four minutes into the game when John Schiavo wristed a rebound into a wide open net.
Perry had stopped the first two shots, but the puck was free for a third time in the crease area when Nutkevitch buried it.
There were no penalties in the period until the Ice Flyers’ Matt Ustaski was whistled for tripping with 1:48 left. In the final 30 seconds of the period, the scrum for loose puck led to the goal.
“I thought we played well in the second and third (periods),” Aldoff said. “I thought we got our legs going. The third period I thought was tremendous.”
ICE FLYERS GAME NOTABLES
Saturday’s game featured the annual, “Small Dog Races,” always a big hit. This time it featured many reluctant pups from various breeds, who stayed near owners and were unable to be coaxed into scurrying to the far blue line.
A few eventually emerged to create a final race of four dogs, won by a Corgi, who outraced a Dachshund, the length of the ice.
The Ice Flyers honored the UWF football team with a first-period announcement of Saturday’s national championship score and message on the matrix scoreboard.
The game also featured Santa Claus, who was in a team sponsor photo booth on the concourse during the game.
Following the game, Ice Flyers players skated with fans in a open-to-public skate session at the Bay Center.