By Bill Vilona
Ice Flyers Correspondent
The Ice Flyers raised another championship banner before their season-opening face-off, then extended the celebration hours later Saturday night with a special ending.
Dalton Young completed a big night in his league debut by putting home a rebound just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Ice Flyers a 3-2 victory against the Birmingham Bulls and igniting a roar among the largest Pensacola Bay Center crowd in two seasons.
Young’s second goal, to go along with an assist, provided a desired finish to an evening that began with honoring the team’s fourth Southern Professional Hockey League President’s Cup title, which was won five months ago.
“We couldn’t have scripted that any better,” said Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris.
A crowd of nearly 4,000 – the largest since March 2020 at the Pensacola Bay Center – watched a complete new roster of players embrace Young after his game-winner. The team wore custom-made jerseys commemorating the Ice Flyers four championship trophies, which were auctioned to fans after the game.
“It was a great night,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “It was stressful on the coach, but the guys battled extremely hard, so it was good to see them get that two points.
“The game was full of a little bit of everything so it was a good learning experience and get their feet wet.”
Young, 28, a Marysville, Michigan native, who played the past two seasons in the Federation Hockey League, was part of a power-play unit when the Ice Flyers began overtime.
They had 20 seconds of carryover power-play from a hooking call at 18:20 of the third period. They needed just 12 seconds during the 3-on-3 extra period.
Dylan Carabia’s shot from a face-off rush was on Young’s stick blade when he directed the puck into an empty area of the cage.
“It’s not something you work on a whole lot and we didn’t during our week (training camp),” Aldoff said. “You have to use hockey sense in those situations. We got a good shot on net and Dalton was going for the rebound and came right to him and what a way to put it away.”
Young scored the game’s first goal, less than eight minutes into the first period. He then assisted on Petr Panacek’s goal six minutes later.
Carabia and Panacek both got credited with assists on the game winner.
Ice Flyers goaltender Christian Pavlas, 28, stopped 26 shots in his SPHL debut. Pavlas, a Slovakia native, played two seasons in the lower-level FHL in 2017-19.
“I thought our goaltending was tremendous,” Aldoff said. “The second (Bulls goal) went off us, but (Pavlas) made some huge saves.
“For a lot of guys, it was the first game in our league and there were a lot of nerves and you could see it, but it takes time (to adjust).”
The night began with a pregame ceremony that included unveiling of a banner that was raised up to the ceiling. Players on last year’s team had tributes played on the video boards.
“All those banners are an organization thing and something we are proud of,” Aldoff said. “Those are special moments in our history and for our organization. That’s what we play and it was good to see some faces on the digital board.”
The Ice Flyers will stay in town next weekend, hosting the Huntsville Havoc in games on Oct. 22-23 at the Pensacola Bay Center.