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Ice Flyers Have Enough, Stop Huntsville Streak with 3-2 Win

January 15, 2022 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) - Pensacola Ice Flyers News Release


In nine previous meetings this season, the Ice Flyers exited without a win against the Huntsville Havoc.

Friday night, the Ice Flyers made certain that enough was enough.

From a textbook goal eight seconds into the game, through three periods of meeting the moment, the Ice Flyers flipped the narrative with a 3-2 victory against the first-place Havoc at the Pensacola Bay Center.

It was only the fourth loss this season for Huntsville (23-4, plus two overtime losses). It was midpoint of the Ice Flyers schedule and provided the kind of desired performance they have sought.

"We've had a tough time with Huntsville all year. A lot has been pushed on ourselves," said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. "I think we just came with an attitude, came with swagger, and (players) weren't going to accept anything other than the win and playing the right way."

In winning, the Ice Flyers (14-10, 4 OT losses) proved they could toe-to-toe, fist-to-face with a team that has dominated its way to atop the Southern Professional Hockey League standings. They kept Huntsville from getting its first shot on goal until nearly nine minutes has elapsed in the game.

There were a couple crowd-pleasing fights and the Ice Flyers delivered the bulk of loud checks.

A chance to continue that mindset follows Saturday night with a back-to-back home game at the Bay Center against the Birmingham Bulls - a struggling team, but one which beat the Ice Flyers at home a week ago.

"I mean, it's one game, nothing more," Aldoff said, reflecting on ending Huntsville's win streak against the Ice Flyers. "It's guys stepping up and playing big. It's that time of year when there's a big step to take and you have to take it.

"I think we have a little more of a swagger now, a little more confidence and now we just keep playing with it."

A portion of the crowd had not settled into seats with a beverage when the Ice Flyers' Ivan Bondarenko pulled off a rarity by scoring in an eyeblink from the first puck drop.

After Dalton Young won the draw and Dylan Carabia found Bondarenko in stride down the left side, a quick wrister was rifled past goaltender Zane Steeves.

Just like that, a goal dance in the stands was on.

"It's a faceoff play we have and it went exactly as planned," Aldoff said. There was supposed to be another pass there, but he made a good read in seeing it was wide open and took the ice. Everything went according to plan and he made a great shot.

"We practice those things. Everyone was in the right spot, but (Ivan) took it to another level seeing his pass wasn't open."

The Ice Flyers thought they had a second goal late in the period during a rush in the goal crease area. But officials ruled the net had come off its moorings before the puck crossed the red line.

"I didn't have a good look at it. I was just going by what a (Ice Flyers) player saw," said Aldoff, who argued his case to the referee.

After the Havoc tied the game on a power play goal, the Ice Flyers answered on their first power play opportunity. Weiland Parrish got a favorable carom into the net. Malik Johnson, a tall, physical center the Ice Flyers recently acquired, got the assist in his debut game.

The second period went scoreless. In the third period, the Ice Flyers again answered a Havoc goal by scoring a minute later. Marcus Russell buried a one-timer shot off a perfect pass from Kyle Wendorf.

"That's attitude stuff where you're mad they tied it up and we're not going to accept that," Aldoff said. "Hats off to all of them."

In the final nine minutes, the Ice Flyers controlled play. They forced the Havoc into a penalty with too many players on the ice with 1:04 remaining, thus limiting what they could do by pulling their goaltender for another attacker.

"We're getting to be a different team. We're taking that step of confidence."

Ice Flyers goaltender Sean Kuhn continued his standard season with 26 saves, including the biggest one in the final 10 minutes when made glove save on a shot headed into an open side of the net.

The Ice Flyers celebrated Tampa Bay Lightning Night with an appearance from Lightning mascot, ThunderBug. They also showcased the Pensacola Junior Ice Flyers program during the first intermission with waves of youth players from ages 5-up on the ice playing in four separate games.

"Where we are, there's not many rinks," Aldoff said. "I'm sure kids travel a lot to play. It is a commitment and a lot of hard volunteer work to keep hockey going. A lot of hard work by a lot of people. "

Anytime we can build our game and get commitment, it says a lot about those parents and is great for hockey, great for the game."

WHAT'S NEXT?

WHO: Birmingham Bulls vs. Ice Flyers

WHEN: Tonight, 7:05 p.m.

WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center

PROMOTION: Military Appreciation Night.


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