By: Bill Vilona – Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers
Young’s Dramatic OT Winner Lifts Ice Flyers
The Ice Flyers made their Veterans Appreciation Night on Saturday complete with a dramatic, celebratory finish and weekend sweep.
Towering winger Blake Young pounced on defensive lapse instantly after winning a faceoff, then flicked a wrist shot into the top corner of the goal with 2:34 left in overtime, lifting the Ice Flyers to a 3-2 victory against the Birmingham Bulls at the Bay Center.
Minutes earlier, Young assisted on a game-tying goal by Meirs Moore with 3:13 left in regulation play.
The rallying effort ignited the crowd of 4,489, who watched the Ice Flyers first home game in three weeks and second overtime win in three Bay Center games.
“The way (Bulls player) lined up must have confused him because he gave me that lane right to the net and why not take it,” said Young, who had a goal and assist in Friday’s 4-1 win against the Bulls in Birmingham. “It’s been a while since I had one of these (overtime winner), that’s for sure.
“You go into overtime and it’s anybody’s game and there is so much more ice with three guys (in 3 on 3 format), so you kind of play man on man and hope for turnovers. It’s just back and forth hockey and it’s exciting to watch.”
It was definitely that way for members of the Milton High boys basketball team in attendance Saturday.
They were nearby the Ice Flyers dressing room tunnel area and mobbed Young as he came off the ice. The excited group circled him, chanting and taking video and photos with their cell phones.
“That was new, definitely,” Young said, laughing. “It’s nice to feed off the energy of the fans, because you definitely hear it. That is something I won’t forget anytime soon.”
In winning both games against the Bulls, the Ice Flyers (4-2) did it with the kind of strong defense, goaltender Chase Perry’s strong play, plus a consistent, early-season, effort that has pleased coach Rod Aldoff.
The Ice Flyers produced 50 shots on goal, the fourth time this season they have generated 40 or more shots.
“We’ve been playing very well,” Aldoff said. “It was nice to be home all week (for practices) and get in rhythm. I thought we have played hard every game. We have played 18 periods of hard hockey.”
After a scoreless first period Saturday, the teams traded goals 72 seconds apart in the second period to enter intermission tied 1-1.
The Ice Flyers Ryan Marcuz got his first goal of the season, getting a pass from Patrick Megannety, who had two goals in Friday’s win, then blasting a shot with 4:17 left from the top of the faceoff circle.
The puck caromed off the back pole inside the net, causing a split-second delay until the goal lamp flashed and crowd reacted.
But Birmingham answered with 3:05 left when Mike Davis’ wrist shot got through Chase Perry’s pads, resulting in a 1-1 tie through two periods.
The Bulls took the lead on a power-play goal with 11:14 left in the third period. It came just after the Bulls had a two-man advantage for 13 seconds. Ryan Marcuz had been whistled for holding with 13:19 left, then Tanner Froese was called for a high stick as that penalty was being killed.
Marcuz was out of the penalty box when the Bulls’ Matt Fuller rifled a shot past Perry.
But the Ice Flyers tied the game with 3:13 remaining when Meirs Moore scored his third goal of the season. Young found him open with the pass and Moore blasted a shot past Bulls’ goaltender Artt Brey.
“You could feel on the bench, that we’re going to get one here and tie this up and win this hockey game. And that’s exactly what we did,” Aldoff said. “They kept the pedal down and got it done.”
In the overtime period, Perry made a couple of big saves before Young’s game-winner at the other end. He has been the goaltender in all six games.
“He’s been superb from the get-go,” Aldoff said. “He’s a great competitor, great kid. He’s been fantastic.”
Young said he was surprised in a good way that he was let free in a critical moment to take a clear shot at the net for a game-winner.
“Those are things where you have to pick up as a pro,” Aldoff said. “Sometimes you go into a faceoff with a certain play and the other team is setting up a certain way and you have to really communicate quickly.
“It’s no different than a quarterback in football. Pros pick up on things quickly and they can adjust quickly. He saw something there and hats off, that was hell of a hockey play.”
And a big way to finish a good weekend for the Ice Flyers.
ICE FLYERS NOTABLES
The Veterans Appreciation Night on Veteran’s Day weekend was celebrated by the Ice Flyers in various ways throughout the game.
During the pregame light show, five members of the Pensacola Junior Ice Flyers skated through the tunnel entrance, carrying flags representing all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Their effort preceded player introductions.
The Blue Angel Belles from Pensacola sang the National Anthem as a giant American flag was unfurled. The ceremonial, opening faceoff featured two retired military veterans: John Fowler, a decorated U.S. Navy veteran and Purple Heart recipient, along with Travis Willis, a 32-year member of the Air Force.
After the second intermission, Cmd. Leroy “Shoe” Shoesmith, operations officer at Whiting Field, addressed the crowd, thanking fans for their support and thanking all members of the military for their services. His two children then took over the microphone to yell, “Go Ice Flyers.”
BLAB-TV had its television crew at the game as a test run for future broadcasts of Friday and Saturday home games. They had three camera stations and were able to capture Young’s game-winner from a close up angle.