By James Hayes | Field Pass
over in state rival the Huntsville Havoc at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL. This game had a little bit of everything and kept everyone glued to their seats to the very end. Birmingham started goaltender Hayden Stewart in place of suspended goalie Austin Lotz. Stewart came into the night with a 0-2 record and 4.30 goals against average. On the other side he would face red hot Huntsville goaltender Jason Pawloski who was coming of a shutout of the Knoxville Ice bears the night before.
The first period would start slow and pick up a bit of steam at the 7:37 mark in the first period when Ryan Cook of Huntsville would find the back of the net to put the Havoc up 1-0 early on. Cook's goal would be assisted by Havoc captain Tyler Piacentini and former Bull JM Piotrowski. After a lot of back and forth play between the two teams we would see our first fight of the night with 1:10 to go in the first period. Kasey Kulczycki would square of with Matthew Newcomb of the Havoc. The fight was over nearly as fast as it had begun and ended with Kulczycki taking Newcomb down to the ice. The first period would end with the Havoc leading 1-0 and out shooting the Bulls 12-5.
The second period started with the Bulls on the penalty kill for the first 38 seconds due to a late 1st period penalty on Harrison Harper. The Bulls would kill off that penalty with ease and shortly thereafter find record a goal with a beauty from former Huntsville player Jared Legien. The goal came at the 4:51 mark in the first period on a play that started when Havoc defenseman Ryan Cook would mishandle the puck in the offensive zone turning the puck over to Legien who flew down the ice on a breakaway to scores top-shelf stick side on Pawloski. This goal would officially end Pawloski’s shut out streak at 84 minutes and 50 seconds.
A few short minutes later former Bull JM Piotrowski didn’t take kindly to a hit Birmingham’s Harrison Harper laid on Havoc player Sy Nutkevitch and would challenge Harper to a fight which instantly didn’t look like a good idea. Harper came out swinging and landed a few big haymakers and uppercuts. The two continued to exchange punches in what would be a battle of who has the best balance towards the end before the refs finally stepped in and broke up the fight. The rest of the period would feature both goaltenders showcasing their skills stopping shot after shot and the period would end deadlocked at 1-1.
Birmingham came out of the locker room hungry for a victory and flying around the ice. It didn’t take to long for them to find there first lead of the night and the weekend. 4 minutes and 34 seconds into the 3rd period who other than Jared Legien would once again beat Pawloski getting his fourth goal of the season. This time Legien came racing down the right-wing boards and wristed one into the back of the net for what would end up being the game winning goal of the night. Taylor Pryce and Jarod Hilderman would both get credited with an assist on the goal as well.
With 6 minutes and 34 seconds remaining in regulations, Birmingham would score a goal on a crazy scrum in front of the Havoc net in which Havoc goaltender Pawloski seemed to believe he had the puck secured underneath him. Tanner Froese would get credit for the goal with assist’s coming from Logan Nelson and Mike Davis.
With 3:25 remaining in the game the Havoc coaching staff took a page out of Patrick Roy’s playbook and pulled the goalie with a lot of time still remaining on the clock. This move would prove to not work for Huntsville as a few moments later Birmingham forward Alex Gilmour would launch the puck into the empty net and solidify the Bulls lead at 4-1.
At the end of the night a quote from coach Simchuk says it all, “Gutsy win! Boys dug deep and found a way to win. They stuck to the game plan and it paid off.”
Sticking to the game plan indeed worked out and Birmingham came up huge in the 3rd period. The Bulls next game will once again be on the road on February 4th in Knoxville, TN. Birmingham will face off against the Ice Bears for the first time this season.