By Bill Vilona
Ice Flyers correspondent
The Ice Flyers received a big lift from former Wisconsin Badgers goaltender Jack Berry in his second professional start.
But his counterpart, Macon goalie Jake Theut, continues to be a tough riddle to solve.
Theut produced his second shutout and third win against the Ice Flyers in seven days, stopping 27 shots, and helping to thwart six Pensacola power plays in the Mayhem’s 2-0 win Friday night at the Bay Center.
The outcome created a glum mood as the Ice Flyers began a weekend of three games against three different opponents.
They will face the Birmingham Bulls at 7:05 p.m. Saturday amid a fan-pleasing, nostalgic theme.
The Ice Flyers will become the former Pensacola Ice Pilots for one game, wearing the blue Ice Pilots jerseys worn during their team’s successful, early tenure as a new East Coast Hockey League franchise back in the mid-1990’s.
The Ice Flyers won’t see Macon inside their building again until the end of March. That might be just fine.
The Mayhem have been a tall order with Theut in goal and a defensive style that has yielded few open looks.
Theut, 27, himself a former NCAA Division I goaltender, has stopped 75 shots and yielded just two goals in three games during a week-long period against the Ice Flyers. His 1.38 goals against average leads the SPHL and is a full point better than anyone else.
The Ice Flyers’ only win against Macon was 2-1 on Jan. 30, which has kept them with a one-point lead over the Mayhem atop the Southern Professional Hockey League standings.
Friday’s game mirrored the others. After a scoreless first period, Macon captain Stephen Pierog got free in the slot area and quickly flicked a perfect pass from teammate Ryan Smith into the top right corner of the net before Berry could react.
That was the only goal until the Ice Flyers pulled Berry for an extra attacker, following a timeout with 2:09 left, and Jimmy Soper scored an empty-netter with 1:33 remaining.
The Ice Flyers had six power-play chances, including the only two in the first period, then another only 32 seconds into the third period. But they could not get an emotion-lifting goal.
Assistant captain Alec Hagaman, tied for the team’s most goals with seven, was injured during the game and missed most of the game.
Leading points scorer Eddie Matsushima, injured last weekend, did not play and winger Patrick Megannety is also injured.
With new additions this week, the Ice Flyers had some point-blank chances at Theut, but he made big saves each time.
Berry, 25, a Holly, Michigan native, who celebrated his birthday Thursday, was honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference during his senior season at Wisconsin. He stopped all of the Mayhem’s odd man rushes and thwarted shots on four power play opportunities for Macon.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Ice Flyers Home Weekend
WHO: Ice Flyers vs. Macon (Friday), vs. Birmingham (Saturday), vs. Huntsville (Sunday).
WHEN: Friday’s game is at 7:35 p.m. Saturday’s game is 7:05 and Sunday is 4:05 p.m.
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center
TICKETS: Available at Bay Center box office and online at www.pensacolaiceflyers.com