Ice Flyers Miss On Power-Play Chances, Fall 2-1 In Overtime Against Evansville

March 30, 2024

By Bill Vilona, Ice Flyers correspondent

The Ice Flyers came up empty on nine power-play chances Friday night.

And then lost the game in overtime while on the power play, silencing a crowd of 5,010 at the Pensacola Bay Center.

For a photo gallery, click here.

It was that kind of night, that tough of a loss as the Evansville Thunderbolts exited with a 2-1 victory to begin the Ice Flyers final home weekend of the season on Easter weekend.

“It was very fitting that we lost the game on a power play by a lack of execution, giving up a shorthanded goal. It sums up the night unfortunately,” said Ice Flyers coach Gary Graham.

After Evansville was whistled for its 10th penalty with 53.8 seconds left in regulation play, the Ice Flyers had their chance to win the game. But they were unable to get a good look in that span, then went into overtime with the penalty carrying over.

On a 4-on-3 situation, an Ice Flyers player fell while trying to make a pass. The Thunderbolts’ Matthew Hobbs got the turnover, got free on a breakaway and made a quick deke and wrister past Ice Flyers goaltender Stephen Mundinger for the game winner.

Mundinger had kept the Ice Flyers in the game the entire way, stopping 31 shots, many of them with brilliant glove saves, but the offensive production lacked, and Evansville got the win.

Evansville (23-27, 3 OT losses, 47 points) also won the previous meeting between these teams. They will play again Saturday night for the final time. The Thunderbolts clinched the final playoff spot in eighth place and trail the seventh-place Ice Flyers (24-25, 3 OT losses, 51 points) heading into the final four games of the season for both teams.

The game recap:

FIRST PERIOD

The Ice Flyers had two power play chances and a 13-5 edge in shots, but the period ended scoreless.

With 11:54 left and both teams even-strength, the Ice Flyers briefly reacted to the goal light coming on after a loose puck in a scrum was poked into the net.

But referee Keith Grooms had raised his arm and blown his whistle a second before the puck was pushed into the net to signal play stoppage. The Ice Flyers did not react as if there was a dispute. There was some pushing and shoving among several players, but no penalties issued.

Mundinger made his best save of the period on a clear breakaway chance by coming out and forcing a shot into his chest protecter.

SECOND PERIOD

This began with a flurry of shots, then ended with a flurry of fists.

And a tied game at 1-1.

Evansville had three point blank chances in the first five minutes, two of those by center Grant Spence. All were thwarted by Mundinger.

That lift carried into the game’s first goal when Reggie Millette broke free after a face off and made a perfect feed from the right side to newcomer, Spencer Kennedy, who buried a one timer into the net with 13:50 left in the period.

Kennedy played his first game Friday for the Ice Flyers, after being on four different teams this season, including 19 games for Roanoke and 13 for Peoria in the SPHL.

Spence then tied the game with 8:58 left when burying a rebound off a leg pad save by Mundinger. Brendon Harrogate got free on a 2 on 1 break to force the kick save and Spence had wide open net to finish.

After seeking a fight in the first period, but getting no takers, Kennedy landed several punches to Grayson Valente’s face as the horn sounded to end the second period. It followed a slashing call against the Thunderbirds’ Adam Pilotte.

It took minutes to sort out the infractions. Kennedy was given a five-minute fighting penalty; two minutes to Pilotte and another two minutes to Valente to start the third period.

Evansville tied the game with 8:58 remaining on a rebound shot by

THIRD PERIOD

The Ice Flyers began with a man-advantage for the first 90 seconds in a penalty filled start to this period.

The teams were not at full strength together until less than 10 minutes remained. The Ice Flyers had 12 shots in the period, but none of them with rebound chances to follow. In the period, the teams combined for 25 penalty minutes.

QUOTABLES

Ice Flyers coach Gary Graham:

“We had a lot of passengers (Friday) unfortunately. I didn’t expect it. We had a good week of practice. I tip my hat to Evansville. I thought it was a chance-for-chance, coin flip type of game, but again we should start seeing guys rise to the top as this point in the season.

The power play (woes) are the same thing all year. We just don’t have shooters. We have three of the top assist guys in the league, but we don’t have anyone in the top 15 for goals. We just don’t have guys who want to shoot the puck and when we do shoot the puck we miss the net. It’s been the same thing.

If we could just get our power play to buy into getting pucks and bodies to the net, maybe we could do something with the power play.

On Spencer Kennedy’s Impact: “Obviously he knows his role here, he knows his job. He did a great job his first shift with a big hit, and it got the crowd going, because we didn’t have a good start. That hit kind of got us going. I think we rattled off the next 13 shots.”

WHAT TO GO?

WHO: Evansville Thunderbolts vs. Ice Flyers

WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center

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