By Bill Vilona, Ice Flyers.Com Correspondent
A quick breakdown and bad ricochet off the boards led into the Ice Flyers first home ice loss.
First-place Birmingham seized upon a mistake, had center Brendan Soucie pounce on a bounce for a go-ahead goal with 6:23 remaining and the Bulls thwarted any space for a tying opportunity in their 3-2 win Tuesday night against the Ice Flyers.
On the night after Christmas, a crowd of 5,418 filled the lower bowl of the Pensacola Bay Center on Youth Jersey Night. They watched the Ice Flyers twice rally with game-tying goals, but the final minutes proved elusive for another shot at a comeback win.
“We do a great job of climbing back in the game and we had a couple back to back shifts of doing stuff that we don’t want to be doing, which is going backwards and it allowed them to get up on us and get momentum and wear our (defense) down,” said Ice Flyers coach Gary Graham, whose team had won its first nine home games.“We had this lapse for about three minutes and it killed us,” Graham said. “The worst thing was we couldn’t find our game when we needed it the most. When you get a good crowd like that it is always frustrating to lose the game in that fashion.
“But you create your bounces and Birmingham was working hard with the forecheck and they got a bounce and they capatilize.”
The Bulls (15-4, 3 OT losses, 33 points) took over first place in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings with the win, The Ice Flyers (13-9, 26 points). dropped into fourth place with the loss.The teams will play again on Friday at the Pelham Civic Center outside of Birmingham, then return to the Bay Center for the final game of this week’s series on Saturday night.
The first 1,000 children ages 12-under through the arena doors Tuesday received an Ice Flyers replica jersey courtesy. This night followed a crowd of 6,000-plus that watched the Ice Flyers win Saturday against Macon that kept the home streak going.
Tuesday’s crowd filled with kids led to enthusiastic, hopeful setting that responded when the Ice Flyers tied the game 1-1 in the final minute of the second period, then had Taylor Egan rifle a tying goal with 9:01 left to create more energy.
“First (home) loss in nine games, so it’s tough to do that in front of your hometown crowd,” Egan said. “You always want to pull off a win for them. (Crowd turnout) was amazing People could be spending that time at home with their families and they choose to come here and support us. It was great.”
The Ice Flyers gave up a power play goal, after nearly killing off what started as a 5-on-3 disadvantage midway in the third period. But the Bulls 2-1 lead on Egan’s wrist shot from inside the blue line two minutes later.On the player, teammate Dallas Comeau created a screen and Egan’s shot went into the side pocket of the net.
“It seemed like they were pretty tight on their coverage in the d-zone (defensive zone) all game,” Egan said. “Mitch Atkins made a nice play, realizing he had time and space (for a pass). I was in the slot, Dallas put a good screen there and I realized the pressure was in front of the net down low and I took advantage of that.”
That momentum, however, was answered by Birmingham when Soucie wound up with an unassisted goal that he flicked in off the bounce past Ice Flyers goaltender Stephen Mundinger.In the final 90 seconds, the Bulls kept the Ice Flyers from getting Mundinger off the ice for an extra attacker until 14.9 seconds left. The last chance was a faceoff with 5.6 seconds left, won by the Bulls to seal the game.“I couldn’t get my goalie pulled which was frustrating,” Graham said.
The Bulls win evened their season record (3-3) against the Ice Flyers.
After a scoreless first period in which the teams combined for just nine shots on goal, the game was tied 1-1 after two periods. The Ice Flyers scored on their 18th shot in the game when Brett Mecrones pounced on a center ice turnover, got a breakaway with a trailing teammate and flicked a wrist shot into the net with 49.6 seconds left in the period.
The Ice Flyers killed a pair of penalties in the second period, including a four-minute high sticking infraction whistled against Malik Johnson with 8:42 left and it became a big moment in the game.Birmingham scored the game’s first goal five minutes earlier when Scott Donahue poked in a loose puck that had fallen off Mundinger’s chest amid a player scramble in the crease area.
“For them, (Bulls) keep the puck away from the dangerous areas in their d-zone,” Egan said. “They keep it off the wall. They make simple plays which is good hockey and it’s frustrating for teams to play against. But obviously it’s proven successful for them.”