Ice Flyers Generate Late-Game Suspense, But Macon Again Holds For Win

By Bill Vilona

Ice Flyers correspondent

When the final horn sounded, Ice Flyers captain Garrett Milan slammed his stick to the ice hard enough to echo throughout the arena.

It was another one of those kinds of games, this kind of defeat, that kind of reaction, after the Macon Mayhem continued their success at the Pensacola Bay Center with a 3-2 victory Friday against the Ice Flyers on Military Appreciation Night.

Trailing 3-1, the Ice Flyers pulled goaltender Jack Berry for an extra attacker with 2:50 remaining, generated an emotion-surging goal a minute later, but couldn’t get a tying one despite numerous chances.

“We’re having some bad luck,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “The team is working too hard not to get any results from it. And we have been doing it a lot.

“Overall, you can’t touch the (Ice Flyers) effort. We’re just having tough luck scoring goals. It’s not that the guys aren’t trying, or they don’t have the talent to do it, but it is what is, and we just have to keep skating through it.”

The latest loss against Macon (18-4 in non-overtime games) extended the Ice Flyers home ice misery. They have lost nine consecutive home games, failing to generate a two-point outcome since Jan. 30 when they ironically beat Macon.

Since then, the Mayhem have won four times in the Bay Center. All four have occurred when the Ice Flyers (12-12 in non-overtime games) scored two goals or less.

Friday night, the Ice Flyers peppered Mayhem goaltender Ryan Ruck with 42 shots, but he robbed the Ice Flyers in several close-range shots.  His play enabled Macon to maintain its first-place lead in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings with 40 points.

“We have had many, many games this way,” said Aldoff, whose team is in third place with 28 points and battling to stay among the top four teams and make the playoffs.

“It’s a weird year,” he said. “Honestly, I have never seen so many games where we dominate a game and get nothing for it. But we will get through it and be ready when it comes.

“We are controlling the play, but end of day you have to score more than that.”

The Ice Flyers will get another chance Saturday when they face Macon for the final time this season at the Bay Center. It will be the popular Small Dog Race Night with competition among the pups between both intermissions.

“We’re going to stick to it,” Aldoff said. “We’re still a good team. We will get through this and it well make us better team.”

Aside from honoring all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and recognizing military veterans in attendance, the Ice Flyers generated a positive reaction with their latest specialty jersey – a white camo jersey that each player helped auction after the game.

The game mirrored past ones against Macon. The Mayhem scored on a wrist shot from outside the faceoff circle with 5:23 left in the first period.  The Ice Flyers fell behind 2-0 at the second intermission following Brian Bowen’s pinpoint shot to the top right corner with 7:56 left.

But just 32 seconds into the final period, Cam Bakker created energy when he muscled his way down the left site and lifted a close range shot over Ruck’s shoulder into the net.

Each team had just two power plays as only four penalties were called. The Mayhem capitalized on the second power play to get a deflection goal by Dean Balsamo with 11:52 remaining that stretched the lead to 3-1.

“It was a shot where we had our stick on it… and then it floated through and (Balsamo) tapped his stick on it and it found a way into the net,” Aldoff said. “And then we go down and have breakaways and can’t buy one.

“This team is doing a lot of the right things in skating hard and competing hard.”

After pulling Berry for a sixth attacker, the Ice Flyers’ Darren McCormick banged home a loose puck following a backhand shot by Eddie Matsushima.

That made it 3-2 and doable with 1:51 left.

“When you play desperate, you can get a lot accomplished,” Aldoff said. “Obviously we need the wins and deserved to win that game I thought. But the bigger picture is how we’re playing. I thought we played pretty good.”