By Bill Vilona
Ice Flyers correspondent
Team captain Garrett Milan has always been a leader by example for the Pensacola Ice Flyers.
He showed it again with his goal and assist performance Sunday, amid the gloom of another defeat.
Right now, there is an urgent need for teammates to follow suit.
“I wish I had 20 Garrett Milans,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff, after his team’s 6-3 loss Sunday against the Huntsville Havoc that became the weekend’s third consecutive loss at the Pensacola Bay Center and the Ice Flyers fifth consecutive defeat on their home ice.
“I think he’s leading our team in fights, too,” Aldoff said. “Some guys should maybe think about that. They should see how (Milan) plays.”
Aldoff’s frustration with his team boiled over Sunday, after the Ice Flyers led 1-0 after the first intermission, only to yield six goals in the second period . That was six goals in a 15 minute span — the most allowed in a game all season.
“That was the worst period of hockey that I have ever been part of – as a player or coach – the absolute worst,” Aldoff said. “We are playing like this (motioning up and down). It’s the inconsistency and teams that are inconsistent don’t win. Simple as that.”
The Ice Flyers (8-7-3), who now trail first-place Macon by three points in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings, won’t see the Bay Center for another home game until March 13.
Their next six games and next two weekends are on the road, beginning Thursday against the Birmingham Bulls, following by two games against the Knoxville Ice Bears.
When they come back, more than half the season schedule will be completed. And the Ice Flyers will hit the road without having five of their most experienced players, including leading scorer Eddie Matsushima, who is tied for third among SPHL scoring leaders, along with top goal scorer Alec Hagaman.
All are part of an injured reserve list and will miss a couple weeks.
“We’re going to have who we’ve got,” Aldoff said. “Hopefully they see it, the consistency, the simplicity of this sport. Some of (players) are new and I gotta teach them so I will.
“But you can yell and scream until you’re blue in the face, but they know how to play hockey. They gotta get it done.”
The Havoc quickly wrecked any hope the Ice Flyers had of salvaging two points from a three-game homestand.
Matthew Barnaby Jr., 22, the son of the former NHL veteran, produced a second-period hat trick in a span of six minutes. Each time, Barnaby was in the right place for pass and buried shots into the net.
The game changed and the Bay Center went silent in even less time. The Havoc took their second period lead in only 63 seconds. Tommy Besinger snuck a shot from the side of the net that squeezed past Ice Flyers goaltender Chase Perry. And Barnaby then fed Josh Bowes for the goal-ahead goal just 4:12 into the second period.
From that point, four more goals were scored against Perry before the period ended.
“Our goaltenders have been off,” Aldoff said. “It seems like they play great or they are so off. And the D (defensemen) didn’t help in the second period. We just do some stupid things every game that costs us every game.”
The challenge to avoid that aspect has been magnified with so much player movement, due to injuries.
“We’re just missing too many good players right now,” Aldoff said. “And it’s an opportunity for some other guys to step up, but they can’t do it. We have played some good hockey. But it’s the blowups. One dumb play and it’s the back of our net.
“We’ve got to get healthy. We play hard, but playing a period or two periods hard, then bad in the other period is not going to work. The mistakes are so mind-boggling, because these are pro players.”
Trailing 6-1 and on a penalty kill entering the third period Sunday, Milan showed why he’s the team captain. He quickly turned the period-opening faceoff into a scoring opportunity, which he converted just 14 seconds into the period.
Every time Milan is on the ice, it’s noticeable.
“He’s our best player,” Aldoff said. “He plays hard. He plays like he loves the game and he never gives up.”
The Ice Flyers followed that bit of energy with a few more chances, but couldn’t get another goal until Jake Wahlin scored with 6:16 left in the game.
“We need some guys who can step up,” Aldoff said. “if you’re not scoring, you better be great defensively. This is an opportunity for guys and they’re blowing it. And it’s frustrating on my end, because I have seen them play very well.”