By Bill Vilona – Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers
Pensacola, Fla. (Feb. 8, 2020) – The last half of Friday’s third period, the Ice Flyers leveled checks, controlled play, won a fight, kept generating scoring chances and played with urgency.
Their quest is to carry that sequence into an entire game Saturday.
“The last 12 minutes were awesome. The first 48 (minutes)? Just here or there,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff following a 3-2 loss against the Quad City (Ill.) Storm before a crowd of 3,243 at the Pensacola Bay Center.
It was only the Ice Flyers’ second, regulation-play, loss at home this season. Their home ice edge in 17 games (11-2-4) is largely why the Ice Flyers (19-7-7) are firmly situated in the upper half of the SPHL standings.
After trailing 3-1 early into the final period, the Ice Flyers found a higher gear of intensity and received fan applause when the game-ending horn sounded for how they finished.
“Like I just told (players) in the dressing room, ‘If you play like that (Saturday) the whole game, I’ll take whatever the scoreboard says every night if we play like that.’ It is how you play this game,” Aldoff said.
The Ice Flyers play their next game Saturday (7:05 p.m.) at the Bay Center in a rematch against Quad City (12-16-6) on Marvel Super Hero Night. In a first-ever theme promotion, the Ice Flyers will wear different, custom-made jerseys – Captain America, Black Panther, Iron Man – each of the three periods.
There will be a pregame reception for fans to meet the Captain America character, plus a post-game jersey auction featuring Black Panther. Proceeds from that auction will benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida.
The events around the game have created a buzz.
“Our presales have been good,” said team owner Greg Harris. “Just a lot of interest from our fans. It’s a special night that we have never done before. The popularity of Marvel, adding Captain America and the jersey auction with proceeds benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a hit. It will be an overall big night, a fun night.”
The Ice Flyers will also play Quad City a third time on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.) on First Responders Night. Already, an intensity has built up between the teams with a pair of fights and some words exchanged after the game ended.
“If we play at a high level of consistency for 60 minutes, then it will be a great night,” Aldoff said. “We’ve played well for the most part (this season), but consistency is everything.”
The Ice Flyers started fast Friday. Meirs Moore took a pass from Garrett Milan and wristed home a power-play goal with 7:48 left in the first period.
But four minutes later, Quad City tied the game on a power play goal by Taylor Price. The Storm led 2-1 after two periods after Jon Butitta scored at 6:34 into the period.
Kristaps Nimanis goal at 5:25 of the third period proved the decisive goal.
But the Ice Flyers battled back when Patrick Megannety deflected team captain Craig Cescon’s pass into the net with 10:31 left.
Less than two minutes later, the Ice Flyers Blake Young and the Storm’s Tommy Tsicos squared off near the center line boards with Young landing more punches and getting Tsicos on the ice. It was the kind of response Aldoff wanted to see.
“Hard work, intensity… those are non-negotiable,” he said.
The Ice Flyers had 47 shots on goal against former Ice Flyers goalie Peter Di Salvo, but he proved a tough barrier. Ice Flyers goalie Chase Perry faced 28 shots.
ICE FLYERS GAME NOTABLES
Friday was Faith and Family Night. Area church groups of 20 or more received discounted center-ice seats.
Ice Flyers chaplain David “T-Bone” Trombly began his role Friday by singing the Canadian National Anthem. His rendition with a faulty microphone was so well received, Quad Cities team captain gave a quick hug.
At the first intermission, Trombly led a tribute to the three victims of the Naval Air Station-Pensacola terrorist shooting in early December. His tribute included a 30-second moment of silence in the arena. He later followed the somber moment by organizing a “Fastest Pastor” race on the ice.
Better Homes and Garden/Main Street Properties was the game sponsor.