By James Hayes | Field Pass Hockey
In the lone game of the weekend for the Birmingham Bulls, they welcomed in-state rival the Huntsville Havoc into town. To say it was a heated battle is an understatement. The two teams reignited a rivalry that has been lopsided over the past few years. In the end, it was the Bulls who took round two in the “Battle for Bama” by a score of 2-1
Birmingham has been plagued by slow starts recently, giving up the first goal of the game in the first few minutes of the game. This night was different, and the Bulls got the scoring started just 1:19 into the opening period. It was Carson Rose finding the back of the net. Rose redirected a shot taken from the blueline by Taylor Brierley, and Havoc netminder Mike Robinson couldn’t locate the puck in time. Birmingham continued to dominate at the start of the game. It wasn’t until nearly five minutes in that Huntsville registered their first shot on goal.
The ice shifted later in the period when Jake Pappalardo flipped the puck into the seats from his own zone resulting in a delay of game penalty. The Bulls went on to kill off the penalty but, shortly after that, found themselves in penalty trouble once again when Stepan Timofeyev was called for holding. Once again, the Bull’s penalty kill unit powered by Stefan Brucato, the shot-blocking machine, was up to the task. Things started to get physical as the penalty expired, and two more calls were made, sending players from each side to the box for roughing. The teams skated four aside for two minutes, but the score remained the same. Late in the period,
Huntsville goaltender Mike Robinson appeared to have a lower-body injury and left the game, being replaced by Nick Latinovich. The Havoc were down but not out and began to fire away at Hayden Stewart, but Stewart denied everything that came his way. After being outshot to start the period, the Havoc closed out the first down a goal but outshooting the Bulls 18-12.
Birmingham had to start the second period off on the penalty kill due to a boarding call late in the first on Pappalardo. Again, the penalty kill unit did its job. At this point, Birmingham took over and dominated the time of possession. This led to Huntsville committing back-to-back penalties giving the Bulls almost a full two minutes of 5-on-3 powerplay time. Pappalardo made the Havoc pay shortly after that when he sent a puck top shelf past Latinovich, giving Birmingham a two-goal lead.
The further along the game went, the more you could see the pressure rising. Matching roughing penalties were being handed out, and late in the period, Huntsville’s Cole Reginato was handed a 10-minute misconduct penalty for inciting an opponent. In the final 30 seconds of the penalty, Jacob Barber put his former team on the power play for a tripping call that could potentially end up as a suspension for slew-footing.
The Bulls started the third period with around a minute and a half of powerplay time but were unable to expand on their lead. Huntsville controlled play after the penalty kill and looked to cut the Birmingham lead in half. Eventually, the Bulls settled things back down, and then the game started getting chippy again. Shortly after the period’s midway point, the Bulls found themselves killing off another roughing penalty that was called on Nick Minerva. The penalty kill unit did their job and finished a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill for the night.
Late in the period, during a mad scramble in front of Haden Stewart, the Havoc finally got on the board. It was Huntsville’s Austin Martinsen who hammered the puck past Stewart’s pad to narrow the game to 2-1. With 2:20 remaining in the game, the Havoc used their time out to formulate a plan to tie the game up. They came out of the timeout with an empty net and an extra attacker. With 48 seconds remaining in the game, Sy Nutkevitch fired a shot from the blue line and rung the puck off the far post. That would be the only real scoring chance the Havoc had playing 6 on 5, and when the final horn sounded, it was the Bulls claiming victory in this round of the “Battle for Bama.”
With this victory, the Bulls improved to a record of 3-2 and will have the rest of the weekend off. The next time they hit the ice will be Thursday, November 10, when they host the Fayetteville Marksmen at the Pelham Civic Complex. The Marksmen will be coming off only three days of rest after playing Roanoke at home on Sunday.