By Bill Vilona • Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers • Pensacola, Fla. (Dec. 06, 2019)
Chase Perry was unsure of his hockey future as late as July, after the former Detroit Red Wings draft pick received limited post-college interest from any professional team.
Pensacola Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff got a call from his agent. He liked what he heard and saw enough to invite him to training camp.
A performance like Friday night reinforced the faith, after Perry stopped 33 shots and recorded his first pro shutout in the Ice Flyers 2-0 win against the Huntsville Havoc at the Pensacola Bay Center.
The win continued the Ice Flyers’ home unbeaten streak and made the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss Night even more memorable.
“He won the game for us,” Aldoff said. “He played a heck of a hockey game. Some nights the goalie wins it for you and some nights you help them out. He was sensational. He made some saves that were highlight reel saves. Really happy for him.”
The game remained 1-0 until Ice Flyers team captain Craig Cescon sealed it with an empty net goal with 17 seconds remaining. Until then, it was back and forth and the pressure on Perry to ensue the Havoc didn’t spoil the start of a home weekend.
The two teams play again Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Bay Center.
“These games are sometimes easier to play in, rather than games when you see only 10 to 15 shots on you,” said the 23-year-old Perry, a St. Paul, Minn. native. “When the pucks are coming down on you, it makes it easier to stay focused and present in the game.
“You know you have to stay sharp. It was a really fun game and the icing on the cake was the shutout.”
It earned Perry the obvious No. 1 star of the game and repeated loud ovations from the crowd after several sequences in the game where he robbed the Havoc of a goal.
Perry was a fifth round pick by the Red Wings, but chose to attend college where he played four years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
“Obviously, the win is more important, but personally it is a really good feeling to get a shutout,” he said “The team did a really good job in the defensive zone blocking shots and making sure I could see all the pucks.”
After the Ice Flyers Matt Ustaski converted a two-on-one chance just 46 seconds into the second period, that goal held up until Cescon’s empty netter. Ustaski’s goal sent over a thousand new teddy bears on the ice where it will make Christmas even brighter for needy children.
Late in the second period, Perry made several saves that were video worthy including a sequence when he twice extended leg pads to thwart a puck heading into an opening.
“Obviously, you like to make it look easy, but it was really battling,” Perry said. “It kinda brings you back to practice, just having fun with the boys and making they don’t score, and you’re throwing legs and hands everywhere.”
The game began on a solemn note. The Ice Flyers had a moment of silence and recognized all area First Responders for their efforts in Friday’s horrific tragedy at Naval Air Station-Pensacola where three innocent people died and the gunman was shot dead by police.
The first period include the Ice Flyers killing three penalties.
“We grinded for sure,” Aldoff add. “But the guys battled and we kept chipping away, chipping away. We would have liked to sustained more pressure in their zone. But a good win. There’s a couple adjustments we need to make and go from there.
“They didn’t score, but I thought they got some chances where we were looking the wrong way, or a stick was on the wrong side. So we have to look at that look at it and clean that up. We gave them too many Grade-A chances.”
Perry recalls the Grade-A recruiting pitch Aldoff presented when sending him a team brochure that includes shots of the beach and the Bay Center crowd.
“I didn’t get many looks out of college,” he said. “Rod gave me a call and sent me a recruiting package. I wanted to be part of that.”