By James Hayes | Field Pass
The Birmingham Bulls traveled up I-65 for an early evening battle with in-state rival the Huntsville Havoc. Both teams came into the game looking to end there losing streaks. The Bulls have lost their past 6 straight games and the Havoc are on a 3-game skid. This game marks the 7th meeting between the two teams on the season with the Havoc leading the season series 4-2. The Bulls come into the night being outscored 26-10 during this losing streak and would be looking to find some offense on the night. Austin Lotz got the nod in net for the Bull’s and Jason Pawloski got the call between the pipes for the Havoc.
Huntsville started the game on a mission and controlled the first few minutes of play. Just 2:04 into the opening period, Havoc forward Matthew Barnaby entered the offensive zone with some speed. He skated across the front of the crease and zinged a wrist shot past Austin Lotz to give the Havoc the early lead. A few moments later while the Bulls were on the power play, Austin Lotz would attempt to clear the puck out of the zone and turn the puck over to the Havoc. Lotz got back to his crease to make a save, keeping the game at 1-0 but. He then fell to the ice and the trainers would have to assist him off the playing surface.
With Lotz ou ,Hayden Stewart took command of the Bulls' net and would get tested right away by helping kill off two Birmingham penalties. Stewart stopped all 10 shots that came his direction and the Bulls went into the locker room after one period down 1-0 while building some momentum in the final minute of the period.
Birmingham came out of the locker room a changed team after a rough first period. 2:51 into the second Huntsville player, Alec Brandup got called for holding, giving the Bulls a powerplay chance to tie up the game. With time expiring in the powerplay, Bulls captain,Logan Nelson caught a pass to the right wing circle and skated in on Pawloski, shooting and scoring making it a tie game. At that point Birmingham would skate around with a chip on their shoulder, looking to get their first lead in quite some time.
At the 13:18 mark shortly after a penalty against Kasey Kulczycki would expire, things would get exciting for Bulls' fans. Kulczycki would take a shot on a wrap around chance and the rebound would go to CJ Hayes who wasted no time putting the puck into the back of the net.
After falling down 2-1 Huntsville started skating with a sense of urgency and eventually drew a penalty at the 17:45 mark of the period. With 36 seconds remaining in the period and even less time in the powerplay, the Havoc would strike again. A shot by Havoc captain Tyler Piacentini would ring off the crossbar and the rebound chance went to Sy Nutkevitch's stick. Nutkevitch would send the puck home, tying the game at 2 goals apiece. The period would end with a 2-2 tie and Huntsville outshooting the Bulls 21-12
The final period would get off to an exciting start for the Bulls when Huntsville defenseman , Carson Vance got called for a high stick just 19 seconds into the period. The Bulls, who’s powerplay has been more of an advantage for the opponent this weekend, looked to make changes and did exactly that 6 seconds into the powerplay.
Birmingham would win the faceoff back to Anthony Florentino, who would send the puck across the blueline to Logan Nelson. Nelson would send a booming slap shot from the point beating Pawloski once again, putting the Bulls back in the lead. After the Birmingham goal, both teams skated with a lot of energy looking to end there losing streaks. Around the halfway point of the final frame, Birmingham’s Mackenzie Dwyer would get called for roughing and the Bulls would have to defend their lead shorthanded.
Huntsville came at Hayden Stewart and the Bulls with a very aggressive powerplay, but would end up getting called for a penalty of their captain Tyler Piacentini. Birmingham controlled the play during the 4 on 4 and went into a short powerplay that they would fail to convert on.
With about four and a half minutes to go, Huntsville would look to tie the game. With 1:08 remaining in the game, Huntsville goalie Jason Pawloski got called to the bench for the extra attacker as the Havoc continued heavy pressure looking to send the game into overtime. In the last minute of the game, Birmingham goaltender Hayden Stewart made 3 huge saves which made the difference and the losing streak in Birmingham finally came to an end. Not only did the losing streak end but the victory came over the in-state rival, the Huntsville Havoc. The final score on the night was Birmingham 3 and Huntsville 2.
After the game Coach Simchuk said, “The boys could have packed it in early but dug deep and found a way. Its not easy playing three games in 48 hours. Every guy their game up and contributed.”
Birmingham put together a complete game for the first time in awhile and it paid off in the end. The team will have the night to celebrate the victory before having to start preparing for the Knoxville Ice Bears this upcoming Thursday night. We will see if the Bulls can carry the momentum over and start a winning streak of their own. .