By Bill Vilona – Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers
The Ice Flyers faced their third overtime shootout Friday in two weekends.
This one, however, ended with a glum feeling on a big night.
After quickly revving up a season-best crowd of 6,245 at the Pensacola Bay Center, scoring two goals in the first 12 minutes to start the $5 ticket weekend, the Ice Flyers didn’t score again and sustained a 3-2 shootout loss against the Birmingham Bulls.
It was the Ice Flyers seventh overtime game in 15 home dates, but the first ending in a post-OT shootout to decide the winner. The other two shootouts occurred last weekend at Peoria where the Ice Flyers went 1-0-2 against the SPHL’s first-place team.
“We have been in three shootouts and haven’t scored a lot,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “We scored, what, two goals? (from the chances). Out of 15 shooters. We have to bear down. That’s on the individual. You get that opportunity, go down there and score.”
Aldoff was displeased after watching the Ice Flyers have a 2-0 lead at first intermission, only to have it erased in the first 10 minutes of the second period.
“I thought the start of the game was great,” he said. “We were skating well, getting opportunities. But again, we come down, we were a second off in our end, and they had way too many Grade-A opportunities.
“It’s just mental. We come out in the second (period) and just watch in our end. That’s mental. Nothing has changed in the game. You just gotta be ready to play. If you fall asleep for five minutes you are going to feel the pain.”
The chance to change that feeling is Saturday when the $5 ticket weekend concludes with a 7:05 p.m. game against the Roanoke (Va.) Rail Yard Dawgs, who played Friday at Huntsville and previously faced the Ice Flyers on the season-opening weekend Oct. 18-19.
The Ice Flyers won both of those games at the Bay Center. A potential sellout crowd awaits for Saturday’s game. All seats, except the first rows from ice level are $5 reserve seating.
“We have to be more focused on the game,” Aldoff said, while noting the festive atmosphere produced by a large crowd. “You have to be focused to play 60 minutes, and if you’re not, those things (OT losses) will happen.”
The Ice Flyers’ Garrett Milan made things happen in a good way to start the game. While the Ice Flyers were killing a penalty, he got a center-ice pass from Brett D’Andrea for a breakaway, then flicked a backhand shot into the upper corner of the net.
Eight minutes later, while on their only power play in the game, Meirs Moore was fed a pass by Tyler Andrews between the faceoff circles and he rifled a wrist shot past goalie Austin Lotz.
The score stayed the way through the end of regulation play. The Ice Flyers had one third-period shot clang off the top of the cross bar. With 4:33 left, Milan was thwarted on a great save by Lotz.
“Garrett shows up every day, practice and games, and plays hard. But he can’t carry us every night,” Aldoff said. “More guys have to come to play and be consistent and be ready to compete every night. Some other guys have to pick it up. We need to spread out the scoring.”
In the overtime, the scoring void continued, leading into the five-player shootout. After Milan scored first for the Ice Flyers, the Bulls scored with three of their next four shooters to seal the two-point win. The Ice Flyers, who gained a point in the OT loss, had won all four prior games this season against Birmingham.
Ice Flyers goaltender Chase Perry, who returned Jan. 16 after an extended call-up to the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears, made a flurry of big saves in each period, including several late in the third period to help send the game into overtime.
“We are a better defensive team than what we have shown,” Aldoff said. “I don’t want to rely on a goaltender to make a big save every period for us to stay in it. We want to put that pressure on the other side of the rink.”
ICE FLYERS GAME NOTABLES
The game was sponsored by BJ’s Wholesale Club, which is scheduled to soon open its first Pensacola-area store on North Davis Highway at the former Sears/University Mall location.
The store’s general manager was recognized with the ceremonial opening face-off and the company gave fans red tote bags as they entered the Bay Center. The company also sponsored a fan contest on the ice at first intermission.
Step One Automotive Group, which owns the Buick-GMC Pensacola dealership and Cadillac Pensacola, paraded two massive trucks on the ice at first intermission and had employees tossing out plastic frisbees to fans.