By Bill Vilona – Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers
Pensacola, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2020) –
Amid a sellout crowd Saturday night, matching the best in franchise history, the Ice Flyers played another overtime game containing all sorts of elements.
The one thing missing? Joy at the end.
Less than a minute into the extra period, the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs created buzzkill, getting a second-chance goal by Brantley Sherwood for a 3-2 overtime win at the Pensacola Bay Center. It made for a quick, quiet, exit of 8,049 fans, who had filled the arena from ice level to rafter level on the $5 ticket weekend.
Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff did not mince words with his assessment. And disappointment.
“There will be changes,” Aldoff said. “We’re spinning our wheels, spinning our wheels and getting nothing done.”
The back-to-back games this weekend with $5 seats attracted 14,294 fans and created a massive residual economic impact downtown.
Unfortunately for the team, overtime losses to Birmingham in an OT shootout loss Friday, followed by Roanoke’s stunning triumph occurred against two lower-half teams in the SPHL standings, leaving Aldoff and players in an unhappy mood.
“Two teams came in here from the bottom half of our league and took four points,” Aldoff said. “We have to rely on (star winger) Garrett Milan every night to score a goal or two. I mean some guys are doing nothing. And it shows.’’
Just like Friday’s game, the game started well and created a goal celebration for the fans after Michael Ederer buried a pass from Meirs Moore into the net with 7:37 left in the first period. The Ice Flyers (18-5-7, third place in SPHL) controlled play in that opening period and had a 15-8 edge in shots.
But the second period hit a lull and Roanoke (10-16-5, 9thplace) tied the game with 7:59 left before intermission. From that point, the game changed.
A violent check by Roanoke’s Mac Jensen against the boards with 3:56 remaining trigged a brawl between the teams and lengthy delay while officials sorted it out. Jensen was given a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct. Roanoke’s Sherwood and the Ice Flyers Tyler Andrews fought and both received 10-minute misconducts along with fighting penalties in response to the hit.
In all, eight penalties were called from the incident.
In the third period, the Rail Yard Dawgs took the lead on Lincoln Griffin’s goal less than three minutes into the period. The Ice Flyers peppered Roanoke goaltender Henry Dill with 22 shots in the period, outshooting Roanoke 46-32 in the game, but could not get a goal until Milan’s late-tying shot.
“It’s just about getting things done,” Aldoff said. “You can have all the effort, but if you’re not getting things done, then we need to get people who get things done.
“As I told the guys, this weekend, it put it to the forefront. Definitely, anybody who has played hockey, it’s a long season and there’s ups and downs. There’s always grinding times. But at the end of the day, you can still do other things well. We are giving teams way too many wide open nets.”
In his first start in goal since a call-up to the ECHL, Ice Flyers goaltender Jake Kupsky had 29 saves, many of highlight variety to keep the game close.
But the Ice Flyers struggles with scoring in the two weekend games proved costly in overtime defeats.
It was the Ice Flyers eighth, home overtime game in 16 home dates. Their seven overtime losses are the most in the SPHL.
“We can’t win championships that way. And we’re here to win championships,” Aldoff said.
The Ice Flyers and Roanoke will see each other soon. The teams play back-to-back games next weekend (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, Va. The Ice Flyers will begin the road trip on Thursday night with a game against the Macon (Ga.) Mayhem.
The next home games are a three-game series Feb. 7-9 against the Quad Cities (Ill.) Storm.
ICE FLYERS GAME NOTABLES
The entire $5 ticket weekend was sponsored by the soon-to-open B.J.’s Wholesale Club, which is putting its first Pensacola area store at the former Sears location at the University Mall on Davis Highway.
Fans entering Saturday’s game were given a red/silver tumbler from B.J.’s Wholesale and the company also had a special kiosk on the arena concourse where fans could spin a wheel for prizes. A company representative was on the ice for the ceremonial opening faceoff.
The children’s choir from Olive Baptist Church performed the National Anthem on the ice.