By Bill Vilona
Ice Flyers correspondent
The Ice Flyers didn’t lack for opportunities in Sunday’s matinee finale against Knoxville and avoided the momentary lapses which have cost them in recent games.
But they still exited their home ice with an empty feeling.
The Ice Flyers again produced a tying goal late in the third period, then carried play into overtime, only to lose in a post-overtime shootout for a repeat 2-1 loss against the Ice Bears at the Pensacola Bay Center.
“Overall, when you look at our effort over six periods this weekend, I thought it was good,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff, whose team lost 2-1 Saturday night in a regulation-play game. “Guys are working hard. I just want to see some payoff which is putting the puck in the back of the net. We had some good quality situations and we just need to bear down.”
The Ice Flyers on Sunday produced a staggering 49 shots on goal, outshooting Knoxville 49-18.
Only one of their shots, however, got past Knoxville goaltender Austyn Roudebush, 27, a Toledo, Ohio native, who won his eighth consecutive game as the hottest goaltender in the league.
The Ice Flyers’ Jake Wahlin tied the game with 4:25 left when he wristed a shot from inside the faceoff circle area into the top corner of the net. Knoxville’s goal occurred with 1:50 left in the first period, leaving a long gap.
With the crowd on Scout And Family Day energized, the Ice Flyers had a couple late chances, but could not get the go-ahead goal and came up empty in the five-minute overtime.
Four of Roudebush’s wins have been against the Ice Flyers. He stopped all five shots in the post-OT shootout portion. The Ice Bears second shooter, Andrew McLean, got the only goal in the format to win the game.
The loss spoiled the Ice Flyers strong defensive effort in this game, limiting Knoxville to just 18 shots. Ice Flyers goaltender Jack Berry, the former Wisconsin Badgers goalie and All-Big Ten Conference selection, made this third start and had several big saves amid the few shots.
“Jack played well,” Aldoff said. “He played with some confidence for not playing a whole lot and I thought he did a good job. He didn’t get a whole ton of shots.
“But I felt he was confident. And I felt our team was confident with him back there.”
What ailed the Ice Flyers in both games was power play futility. The Ice Flyers were 0-for-6 Sunday, including one four-minute power play in the second period, and a 4-on-3 power play during the five-minute, overtime period.
Their lone goal in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Knoxville occurred just as a power play expired. For the weekend, the Ice Flyers were scoreless in 10 power play chances.
“If we score one power play goal this weekend, we win a game for sure, maybe two,” Aldoff said. “We have our best players out there and they’re not getting it done, so (assistant coach) Jason (Price) and I have to come up with a new power play this week.
“Either new people or new system or something. Because it’s blah, it’s generic. Everyone is trying. But sometimes when you get stale, you’re stale and it doesn’t matter what you try.”
The twin losses to Knoxville meant the Ice Flyers have now lost eight consecutive home games. Their last home win was Jan. 30. They will be on the road for their lone game this week on Friday against the Birmingham Bulls.
The Ice Flyers have played the most games (26) among the five teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They have 16 games left, eight apiece home and away.
“If we keep that same effort as (Sunday), we’ll be tough,” Aldoff said.
The Ice Flyers are hoping to get assistant captain Alec Hagaman back before the regular season ends in April. They know forward Patrick Megannety is lost for the rest of the season with an injury.
At home, especially, the Ice Flyers have struggled on offense. During this home winless streak, they have been shutout twice, and scored two or less goals in four other games.
“We’re playing hard. That is all you can ask for,” Aldoff said. “We had plenty of chances where we’re shooting over the net. Some guys just cannot shoot well and it is what is.
“We have good players who can get it done. It is just a matter of settling done. It’s a mental game now.. Some guys try to do too much themselves. But we will get through this and be okay.”