By Bill Vilona
Ice Flyers correspondent
The Ice Flyers are struggling to find their own four-leaf clover at home.
In a game Saturday which began amid a festive atmosphere, complete with fans wearing green and the Ice Flyers attired in eye-catching green jerseys for the St. Patrick’s Night theme, the ending brought more rough luck.
After the Ice Flyers tied the game with 4:52 remaining, Knoxville got a go-ahead goal from a side-of-net angle with 1:20 left and the Ice Bears held for a 2-1 victory at the Pensacola Bay Center.
“This year, I’ve probably seen more pucks let in from the goal line or behind our net,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “And it’s unacceptable. It can’t happen anymore.
“It seems with this team, it just finds the back of the net from behind the goal line. You can’t do anything about that.”
Unfortunately for the Ice Flyers, who are 11-11 with three other games ending in overtime losses, Saturday’s setback continued a troubling trend on home ice.
The Ice Flyers have not won a home game since Jan. 30. It is a streak of seven consecutive games without getting two points.
They will get an immediate next chance on Sunday when closing the two-game weekend stint with Knoxville in a 4:05 game designated as Scout and Family Day at the Bay Center.
“Sun comes up tomorrow,” Aldoff said. “We played good enough to win the game, but it’s just frustrating. This stuff gets really frustrating. But it is what it is. We’re going to be move forward and come to the rink tomorrow ready to play.”
The spotlight Saturday shined on Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris.
Unknowingly, his front office staff honored his 10-year anniversary as team owner, complete with a video tribute during the first intermission.
It included an emotion-tugging, video from his parents in their snow-covered home landscape in Canada. Staff members, friends, area media members, along with Aldoff all contributed.
“Tremendous night as far as that goes,” Aldoff said. “And a well-deserved honor. With Greg, it’s hard to describe in one sentence. He’s been a leader for our team. He’s a great owner, a great person to work for.
“He is consistent every day in who he is, which makes going to work every day for somebody a lot easier.”
Under Harris’ leadership, the Ice Flyers have consistently been one of the top teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League in won-loss record, attendance and community impact. His tenure includes winning three SPHL President’s Cup titles, with Aldoff behind the bench on two of those titles.
“He keeps the same tone and standards at the same level,” Aldoff said. “And you see that on the ice with the whole organization in general. We have had good success on and off the ice.
“Leadership is everything in every walk of life. When you have good leaders, right from your family to your work, your kids, you will get the most out of people and create a great environment for everybody.”
Saturday’s game was scoreless until Knoxville’s John Curran scored eight minutes into the second period. The score remained that way until Pensacola’s Taylor Price tied the game on a deflection just as a power play expired. Duggie Lagrone and Eddie Matushima assisted.
That put more energy back into a sizeable crowd. But the glum mood returned when Knoxville’s Andrew McLean scored from a tough angle late in the game. The Ice Flyers pulled goaltender Chase Perry for an extra attacker seconds later, but could not generate a tying shot.
Aldoff was upset the go-ahead goal got past Perry.
“There are too many (goals) from behind our net. Chase has to play better, it’s that simple,” he said.
There is also a challenge for the Ice Flyers to avoid defensive lapses and late-game mistakes that have contribute to losses this season.
“We played good. We missed a lot of opportunities,” said Aldoff, whose team generated 33 shots. “At the end of the game, it’s game management. There’s a minute left. We just scored. Finish the period. Minimum with a tie.
“If (opponents) screw up, we get an opportunity, great, and put (puck) in. If not, get the puck to their end as fast as we can. We don’t need to be fancy with it. One dumb thing led to another dumb thing.”