By Bill Vilona
Special to the News Journal
The Ice Flyers have put themselves into position to reach a championship series in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
After the up-and-down flow from a five month season, the Ice Flyers pulled off a 5-2 road playoff win Wednesday against the Knoxville Ice Bears and now have home ice Friday night to clinch this sprint of a semifinal series at the Pensacola Bay Center.
“You got to look at every game as Game Seven,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff in a repeated message during the final weeks when the Ice Flyers began to come together.
The Ice Flyers two home wins against the Ice Bears two weeks ago carried into a win at Huntsville last Sunday which got them third place and this playoff series matchup against No. 2 seed Knoxville.
With SPHL reduced to a five-team league this season due to challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, the league opted to have the semifinal and championship series in a best-of-three games format.
That meant Pensacola’s win Wednesday, where they chased one of the league’s best goaltenders, Austyn Roudebush, with a three-goal barrage early in the second period, put Knoxville on verge of elimination.
“We have been battling between adversity,” said Ice Flyers winger Jack Wahlin, who leads all first-year players in the SPHL in scoring. “It is really good to see this group to come together.
“Our hard work is starting to pay off. We played great hockey and that’s the way you have to play.”
As he often engineered in past playoff runs, Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff mixed a combination of new players with existing talent and it has worked effectively.
Wednesday, the Ice Flyers top players shined with Eddie Matsushima scoring two goals, team captain Garrett Milan and Wahlin all scoring goals. And the Ice Flyers got solid goaltending from Jake Kupsky.
“Keep doing what you’re doing,” Aldoff said. “When you are successful, keep doing what you are doing. If you play 60 minutes that way with a good team like we have it’s pretty hard to think you’re going to get beat. That’s the way it is in playoffs. Play 60 minutes the way we want to.”
The deciding game in this series, if necessary, will play Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn. The winner of the series will then face the Macon-Huntsville winner in the President’s Cup Finals.
Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and current senior writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Studer55. He can be reached at email@example.com
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Game 2 SPHL Semfinals
WHO: Knoxville Ice Bears vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center
WHEN: Friday 7:35 p.m.
TICKETS: Available online at www.pensacolaiceflyers.com or at Bay Center box office.
RADIO: Fox Sports Pensacola (FM 101.1).