By Bill Vilona – Ice Flyers Correspondent
The Ice Flyers and Huntsville Havoc have created some separation atop the league standings.
This weekend showed why they are tied together.
In another game between the teams featuring locking defense, strong goaltending and a one-goal difference, the Havoc got a game-winner with 38 seconds left in overtime for a 2-1 win Saturday night on Marvel Super Heroes Night at the Pensacola Bay Center.
The outcome gave the Ice Flyers three points against the Havoc in their two meetings. That kept the teams tied in first place, as the first quarter of the Southern Professional Hockey League schedule nears completion.
“I told the guys they can leave with their head held high,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “We played hard. At the end of the day, you didn’t get that extra point, but the 60 minutes was good. So I thought overall it was a good week.”
The Ice Flyers wore sleek red and blue Spiderman uniforms for the special theme night. The apparel was a hot sell at the merchandise stands and in a post-game jersey auction.
During the first intermission, the Ice Flyers hosted a Spiderman costume contest featuring all ages.
In the game, Havoc goaltender Max Milosek wove a tight web. He stopped 43 shots and helped thwart four power-play chances.
Meanwhile, Ice Flyers goaltender Chase Perry continued his eye-catching performances. He stopped 23 shots, including a breakaway late in regulation play and several flurries in the crease area.
“Chase has played excellent,” Aldoff said. “The Knoxville win (3-1 on Jan. 23) totally turned his game around. He’s coming to the rink with confidence and playing with confidence and taking charge and being a very good player for us every night.
“And you need that. You have goaltending to be in it on any given night. He’s done his job and done it well.”
Another leader, centerman and team captain Garrett Milan, gave the Ice Flyers an emotional surge in the final minutes after tying the game on a wrap-around with 6:31 remaining.
That sent a surge of noise among the crowd of 2,649 evenly spread out in the arena. The Ice Flyers continued to press for a go-ahead goal to follow, but Milosek thwarted opportunities.
“Garrett is a big player for us and he made a nice play right from the breakout (down the left side) on out,” Aldoff said. “He had momentum, had speed and Garrett made a great play. It’s his game and he’s made big plays for us game in and game out.”
In the overtime, Perry made several big saves. But in the final minute of overtime, as the Havoc controlled play in the Ice Flyers zone, John Schiavo got free and took a pass from Sy Nutkevitch for the game-winner.
“I thought we played a good hockey game,” Aldoff said. “Both teams played pretty tight, pretty hard. A hard fought game.
“Those overtime games and shootouts, they are what they are. Things happen. Thursday night and (Saturday) I thought we played hard for six periods. So that’s all we can ask.”
Nutkevitch gave the Havoc an early lead with his power play goal as 1:08 remained in the first period.
From that point, the Ice Flyers had tying chances, but few second chances on rebounds. Whenever it seemed the Ice Flyers had a player in scoring range, a Havoc player rushed to deflect or block the shot.
“With our team, we have a good skating group and most teams are playing us from the inside,” Aldoff said. “They are collapsing pretty hard in the crease and high slot, so there is not a whole lot of room.
“It’s going to be a grind in there and you have to get pucks to the net and get bodies there. You gotta battle and fight and claw to get everything you can.”
The schedule in the next two weeks has the Ice Flyers playing five of their next six games at home. They will face the Macon Mayhem – the team which has played the fewest games (8) in the league on Feb. 12 and Feb. 14 at home.
The latter is a make-up game from the Ice Flyers’ lone postponement so far this season.
“Everybody in the league has good teams,” Aldoff said. “And you go to show up and play 60 minutes. You got to play consistent and you have to do the little things over and over.
“We have been playing good hockey for a weekends now and we’re healthy, we’re over the hump and guys are pushing themselves in practice and being competitive.”