By Bill Vilona – Contributing Writer of the Pensacola Ice Flyers
The Ice Flyers trend of overtime success and unbeaten home record ended Saturday night in a deflating way.
But not without some measure of solace.
After tying the game with less than eight minutes left, then controlling flow the rest of regulation play, the Ice Flyers gave up a power play goal with 17.9 seconds left in overtime, as the Huntsville Havoc skated off with a 4-3 win on Peanuts theme night at the Pensacola Bay Center.
“Obviously, those are tough situations,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff, whose team earned three points in the back-to-back games this weekend against Huntsville. “But overall, the game in general was a back-and-forth game, not only in the way we played, but on the scoreboard as well.”
Ice Flyers captain Craig Cescon was called for a cross-checking penalty in the corner boards with 23.8 seconds left in the 3 on 3 overtime format. Given an extra attacker, Huntsville won the faceoff and center man Rob Darrar scored five seconds later, disappointing the crowd of 3,314.
“I don’t think officials are overly excited to call a penalty in overtime,” Aldoff said. “It has to be fairly blatant. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
The Ice Flyers 10-3-2 had a 7-0 home record, the best home start of any team in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Three of those wins had been skate-off style in overtime.
‘We are playing well at home. We have a hard working team and fortunately, no matter if we’re at home or on the road, we play pretty dang hard,” Aldoff said. “This team keeps the pedal down for 60 minutes and so when you play like that you are going to be tough no matter where you play.”
The Ice Flyers took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. They got a power play goal from Tanner Froese, his second of the game with 3:18 left in the second period, two seconds before the power play expired.
That itself was positive. The Ice Flyers entered the game 14-for-49 on power plays, the lowest scoring percentage in the SPHL.
“Passing the puck quickly and crisply are everything in a power play,” Aldoff said. “We are taking steps at it. We have people who can get it done, it’s just getting over that hump.”
But Huntsville tied the game just 15 seconds into the third period on a wrist shot by Kyle Shakey as he was coming down the right side.
Four minutes later, Sharkey assisted on Phil Johansson’s go-ahead goal when he deked the defense and got a shot pass Ice Flyers goaltender Chase Perry.
The Ice Flyers did not get their second shot on goal in that period until 8:48 remained in the game. But on their next shot 18 seconds later, Froese buried an open look to tie the game.
“We were a little sluggish in the first few minutes and let them back in it,” Aldoff said. “But in the latter half of the third we skated well and we played hard. It was good to get the goal to tie it up.
“I don’t think we were flat, but we just couldn’t get our wheels going and you can’t do that against a good team. Once we got our eyes opened up, we put the pedal back down and got rewarded for it. These are learning and growing experiences for us.”
The Havoc scored the game’s first goal less than two minutes into the game.
Shawn Bates, the team’s points leader, pounced on a loose puck in front of the net, following a turnover and backhanded an easy goal.
Three minutes later, the Ice Flyers’ Matt Ustaski tied the game 1-1 when scoring his second goal in two nights with a backhand shot. It followed a perfect pass from Joe Drapluk in front of the goal area.
ICE FLYERS NOTABLES – The Ice Flyers wore gold/white/black Peanuts comic strip theme jerseys, which were auctioned to fans after the game on Peanuts Night.
The large chorus from Pensacola’s Hellen Caro Elementary School performed the National Anthem on a red carpet draped across the back of the goal line.
Traveling singer Colm Ó Ceallaigh, an Irishman, entertained fans throughout the game on his final performance before going back to Europe.
The Ice Flyers’ next home game will be Dec. 21, which will include a visit by Santa Claus and the popular “Small Dog Races,” followed by home games on Dec. 26 and Dec. 28 before the new year begins.