Ice Flyers Get Vital Win Against Quad City To End Weekend

February 19, 2024

by Bill Vilona Ice Flyers correspondent

The Ice Flyers understood the urgency of Sunday’s finale against Quad City.

And they responded with a desired performance.

After scoring the game’s first goal, the Ice Flyers quickly answered an emotional shift in second period, then pulled away in the final 20 minutes for a 4-1 victory on Friends and Family Day – the first Sunday matinee game this season – before a crowd of 4,227 at the Pensacola Bay Center.

Ice Flyers’ goaltender Stephen Mundinger was a standout for the team again, earning No. 3 star in post-game recognition after stopping 26 shots. This includes a flurry of big saves in the second period with the game 1-0.
Sunday concluded a three-game series at the Bay Center against the team ahead of the Ice Flyers in sixth place in the SPHL standings. Quad City won the games Friday and Saturday, putting the focus on Sunday as a game to salvage the weekend, get two points and leave with a good feeling before a road trip.

The Ice Flyers will now prepare for a trip to Knoxville, Tennessee where they will face the Knoxville Ice Bears on Friday and Saturday. The Ice Bears are in ninth place in league standings, trailing the Evansville Thunderbolts by five points for the eighth place and final playoff spot.

The game recap:

FIRST PERIOD

The Ice Flyers finally got some good fortune and their first lead of the weekend against Quad City when Joseph Widmar scored with a side net shot.

This wrister caromed off the leg of Quad Cities goalie Brent Moran, whose left leg was inside the goal pipe and the puck banked its way into the net. Garrett Milan was credited with an assist.

It was Widmar’s 10th goal this season and fourth since joining the Ice Flyers in an early January, multi-player trade with the Peoria Rivermen. Widmar is sixth overall in the SPHL in scoring with 42 points and his 32 assists are by far the most of any player in the league.

The Ice Flyers finished the period with a 15-8 edge in shots on goal. There were no penalties in the period, which was played in a speedy 35 minutes.

For more photos, click or tap here.

SECOND PERIOD

There were no penalties whistled at this point in the game until 6:39 remained in the second period.

And then three were called at once. And two goals ensued.

The Storm’s Tommy Tsicos was called for a cross check. In the brief scrum that ensued, the Storm’s Nicola Levesque and the Ice Flyers’ Reggie Millette were given delay of game penalties.

With the Ice Flyers on a power play, the Storm’s Cole Golka pounced on a passing turnover inside the Quad City blue line and broke free with Widmar back on defense. Using Widmar as a screen, Golka’s wrist shot got past Mundinger to tie the game.

But less than a minute later, Widmar got the lead back. Just as Tsicos exited the penalty box, Widmar got off a shot between the faceoff circles into the net for the 2-1 lead.

Both teams entered the intermission with 21 shots a piece in the game.

THIRD PERIOD

The Ice Flyers may have produced their best period of the weekend to seal this win. They outshot Quad City 15-6, allowed only a couple of scoring chances and scored twice to enable a smooth, happy ending to the game.

The Ice Flyers finished killing off a penalty to begin the period. They missed on a power play chance five minutes into the period. But with 12:06 remaining, Sean Gulka followed a close-range, quality shot by Ivan Bondarenko, pounced on the rebound and set the puck into the net. Gulka was named the game’s No. 2 star.

The No. 3 star, Bondarenko, finished a stellar game by scoring the game’s final goal with 6:20 remaining that essentially put a bow on the win.

For the first time in three days, the Ice Flyers post-game salute to the fans and the music in the arena was in a celebratory style.

NOTABLES – Both the Canadian and U.S. National Anthem was performed Sunday by the Haze Gray Quartet, a group of four retired U.S. Navy servicemen.

The “Scout Shootout” was held at first intermission between a group of area Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts with each youth taking shots from the blue line at the net.

The Ice Flyers’ three games with big crowds put them atop the SPHL in total attendance with 115,885 and ahead of everyone in percentage capacity at 98.4-percent. The Ice Flyers are averaging 5,517 in 21 home games so far this season.

QUOTABLES – Ice Flyers Coach Gary Graham:

“From the goaltender (Mundinger) on out, I thought everybody really brought their A-game and that’s what we needed to see. I’ve said it until I’ve been blue in the face, we need our top guys to be our top guys night in and night out. This is the time in a season when the cream will start rising to the top from team to team. To see Joe and Garrett (combine for first goal) was huge for us, but every line contributed. I was happy to see for Gulks (Gulka).. he hasn’t scored in a while… he’s had some injuries this year and has been dealing with different things, but I thought that goal for him was really good for his confidence as well.

“Disappointed giving up a shorthanded goal. That’s probably the only negative I can say from the night. I thought Preston Kugler (added Sunday) did a really good job jumping in on the back end. We made some moves with our roster that maybe should get some attention from the group, which is the point of it, and the guys in the lineup made the most of their opportunities.”
Ice Flyers Center Joesph Widmar:

“It was definitely a big win for the team. Unfortunately, I thought we played some good hockey the first two games and couldn’t bury our chances, but it definitely was a great sign to see in a must win situation that the team stepped up and had a great game.”

NEXT FACEOFF
WHO: Ice Flyers vs. Knoxville Ice Bears
WHEN: Friday-Saturday (Feb. 23-24), 6:35 p.m.

Ice Flyers Fall Short To Quad City On Military Apprecation Night

February 18, 2024

By Bill Vilona Ice Flyers correspondent

The Ice Flyers produced another shooting gallery of chances Saturday but couldn’t hit the target enough to end frustration against the Quad Cities Storm.

For more photos, click or tap here.

Trailing 3-0 into the third period, despite a huge advantage in shots on goal, the Ice Flyers’ comeback fell short in a 3-2 loss, amid the latest massive crowd of 7,019 at the Pensacola Bay Center for Military Appreciation Night.
The Ice Flyers finished with a 43-19 dominating difference in shots but exited the ice without points.

This weekend series closes with a matinee at 4:05 p.m. against Quad City on Friends and Family Day.

The Storm (21-18, 42 points) is now 4-0 this season against the Ice Flyers (17-20, 2 OT losses, 36 points). Pensacola has slipped to just one point ahead of Evansville in seventh place in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings.

A portion of the crowd had exited after two periods with Quad City up 3-0. They missed a riveting ending.

The Ice Flyers produced goals 10 minutes apart in the final period to energize the crowd. They gained an extra attacker with 1:30 remaining when pulling goaltender Steven Mundinger, but Quad City held on.

The game recap:

FIRST PERIOD

Quad Cities took a 2-0 lead with its first three shots in game and led 3-0 at intermission.
Six minutes into the game, Quad City center Patriks Marcinkevics from Latvia got past an Ice Flyers defenseman deep in the zone and lifted a backhander past Mundinger in the top shelf of the net.
The Storm made it 2-0 only 11 seconds after killing off an Ice Flyers power player. Leif Mattson finished a 2-on-1 situation by flipping a shot into the upper corner with 9:42 remaining in the period.
The Storm then got their second power play opportunity late in the period and scored 11 seconds into man advantage. This time, Matt Ustaski scored his 23rd goal this season on a rebound shot with 3:19 left.

SECOND PERIOD

No scoring.
The Ice Flyers outshot Quad City 16-4 in this period but came up empty again. The most telling moment occurred with 3:38 left when Reggie Millette got his stick blade on a loose puck with nothing but open net. But as he let a backhand slider go, Quad City goaltender Kevin Resop threw out his leg and deflected the puck at the last second.
This play typified the Ice Flyers night of frustrations.

THIRD PERIOD

Fortunes changed for the Ice Flyers. Just not enough.
Mitch Atkins scored four minutes into the third period on an assist from Taylor Egan. That goal ended a 10-game, red-lamp drought for Atkins and brought the crowd into the game.
Egan then rifled home a power goal with 5:57 remaining with a laser shot from between the faceoff circles. From that point the Ice Flyers got some other changes, including a couple opportunities with Mundinger pulled for the extra attacker, but Quad City defense held up.

NOTABLES – The Ice Flyers wore attractive red-white-blue jerseys with stars with the Naval Air Station Pensacola logo on the front. These jerseys were auctioned after the game with proceeds benefiting Covenant Care. The jerseys were also sold at the arena merchandise stands.

About 20 minutes prior to the opening faceoff, the U.S. Marine Corps had an enlistment ceremony on the ice inside the blue line area. A group of enlisted service members carried out the ceremony with a red carpet across the ice.

Capt. Terrence Shashaty, Commanding Officer of NAS Pensacola, was honored before the game with the ceremonial puck drop. Shashaty also got the crowd going at the second intermission by using the “Gatlin Gun” to send soft stress balls into the stands.

Also honored was game sponsor, Navy Federal Credit Union, with public relations executive Bill Pearson participating in a ceremonial puck drop.

The McGuire’s Irish Pipe Band entertained at the first intermission with a medley of official songs from the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

QUOTABLES – Ice Flyers Coach Gary Graham
“Again, we had plenty of chances to win that game. That is the good news. We don’t bear down on our scoring chances. The amount of chances we had around the goal mouth with pucks laying on the side, wide open (net), that we didn’t bury… we easily could have scored five or six goals (Saturday), very easily.

“But we did not capitalize and (Quad City) don’t need much. They have some really good shooters on that team and a lot of high-end skill. We did a good job most of the night containing, it, but you give them those chances and they make you pay. You are going to have to score goals against that team.

“Our team has been the same all year. We have to get our offense going early, because that is a momentum thing for us. We were down 3-0, but it easily could have been 3-3, so it’s frustrating.
“We went into this weekend wanting to win a playoff series, wanting to win two of three, so we have already been swept and now it’s just a pride thing. We have to go out (on Sunday) and get two points.”

For more photos, click or tap here.

NEXT FACEOFF
WHO: Quad City Storm vs. Ice Flyers.
WHEN: Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

Ice Flyers Drop Weekend Opener To Quad Cities

February 17, 2024

By Bill Vilona, Ice Flyers correspondent

Garrett Milan tied the Ice Flyers franchise goal-scoring record Friday, but he wished the feat came with better satisfaction.

Instead, the Quad City Storm broke open a tight game with four goals in the final period, skating off with a 6-3 win against the Ice Flyers. It was the first of three consecutive games between the teams this weekend at the Pensacola Bay Center.

The Ice Flyers halved the lead to 2-1 in the final seconds of the second period and carried momentum into the intermission.

For more photos, click here.

But that became short-lived.

Quad City scored just 36 seconds into the final period, got a pair more to pad a lead, then finished their scoring with empty net goal with 41 seconds remaining.

A crowd of 4,462 on Dino Race Night watched Milan get a historic goal with his one-time shot with 7:35 left in the game. It was his 85th goal for the Ice Flyers, matching the record set by former Ice Flyers great Adam Pawlick, who set the mark in three seasons (2013-2016).

The Storm (20-18, 40 points) began the weekend two points ahead of the Ice Flyers (17-19, 2 OT losses) for sixth place in the SPHL standings.

Ice Flyers goaltender Eric Dop made his first start at home after playing both games last week at Huntsville.

The game recap:

FIRST PERIOD

The Ice Flyers had a 12-5 edge in shots on goal, but Quad City scored the only goal of the period. It occurred with exactly 10 minutes left, just 11 seconds after the Storm killed off the Ice Flyers only power play chance.
The Storm caught the Ice Flyers in a 2-on-1 advantage at center ice and Quad City center, Leif Mattson, faked a pass and buried a wrist shot behind Dop in the top corner of the net.

Three minutes later, the Ice Flyers killed off a Quad City power play by limiting the Storm to one shot.

The best Ice Flyers scoring chance occurred when Garrett Milan was thwarted by Storm goaltender Brent Moran with 3:34 left. Then just 27 seconds later, Ivan Bondarenko and Malik Johnson had great chances in the crease area, but with Moran on the ice, a teammate got in the net to stop a loose puck.

SECOND PERIOD

After missing on a power-play chance in the final two minutes, the Ice Flyers broke through when Dale Deon scored on a rebound with just 28.8 seconds left. That goal halved the Storm lead and lifted up the crowd with the goal dance.

Reggie Millette created the opportunity with his wrist shot that forced a kick save by Moran and Deon was there to bang in the rebound while skating toward the crease. It was Deon’s second goal since joining the Ice Flyers last month, as part of an early January trade with the Peoria Rivermen.

Earlier in the period Millette was involved in a pair of scrums with Quad City players.

Quad City took a 2-0 lead less than four minutes into the period on a wrist shot by Logan Nelson between the faceoff circles. But that score could have been more if not for two big saves by the Ice Flyers’ Dop in this period that kept Pensacola within striking distance.

THIRD PERIOD

What a goal flurry ensured from the start of this period.

Nelson scored his second goal of the game for the Storm just 26 seconds into the period, after he rifled a screened shot past Dop.

It then became a 4-1 lead when Trevor Mount scored nine minutes later.

Milan’s goal was followed by the Storm’s Darren McCormick scoring two minutes later and that one became a back-breaker.

Millette scored the Ice Flyers third goal in unassisted fashion with 1:26 left in the game.

NOTABLES – There were three heats of the Dino costume races in the first intermission. That was followed by a consolation and championship race during the second intermission.
This was the Ice Flyers’ 19th home game. They will have seven home games left following the weekend series.

QUOTABLES:

Ice Flyers Coach Gary Graham: “I think the first two periods was a competitive game. We had a really good start to the game. We gave them (scoring) chances off the rush and that’s what happened. It’s a game of chances. Those first two goals, we didn’t give up much, but the chances we did give up, they capitalized on.

“I thought that goal we scored at the end of the second period was just what we needed at the right time. Unfortunately, we might of come out in the third period almost a little too high and they came out and were opportunistic again. They scored right away and you just could feel the air let out of our whole group. That was a tough goal. That goal summarized what happened in the third period. We just didn’t handle the moment well. The next 10 minutes we didn’t play good hockey at all.

Ice Flyers center/captain Garrett Milan: “Like I told the guys in the (locker) room… they congratulated me, it’s great, but honestly tying the record means nothing. I’ll trade that for wins right now. It’s all about wins right now.”

For more photos, click here.

NEXT FACEOFF
WHO: Quad City Storm vs. Ice Flyers.
WHEN: Saturday, 7:05 p.m.

Tate’s Trevaris Edwards Signs Full Football Scholarship

February 16, 2024

Tate High School offensive lineman Trevaris Edwards signed a full football scholarship Thursday with Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

Edwards is an honors student who is a member of the Tate High School Agriscience Academy and student council. He is also a member of the weightlifting and track and field teams.

“Tre excelled on the field his senior year and became one of the area’s most dominating lineman,” said Aggies head coach Rhett Summerford. “He did this all while maintaining a 3.6 gpa. We’re all looking forward to what his college career will bring. He’s going to do great things at Carson-Newman.”

Photos by Tate Yearbook for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Tate Tennis: Boys Defeated Pace; Girls Fall Short

February 9, 2024

Tate High School tennis opened their season Thursday with a boys 4-3 win over Pace, while the girls fell short in a 4-3 loss.

Up next, Tate will host Northview on Monday.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Tate Senior Clay Philley Signs With Birmingham-Southern College

February 7, 2024

Tate senior Clay Philley signed with Birmingham-Southern College Tuesday afternoon. Philley played outside linebacker for the Tate Aggies and is a member of the Tate tennis team. He also plays French horn for the Tate High School Showband of the South, and is a member of the Class of 2024 Hall of Fame.

“Clay is an outstanding student,” said Tate football head coach Rhett Summerford. “He’s very well-liked by not only his peers and teammates, but among faculty as well.”

Photos courtesy Tate Yearbook for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Ice Flyers Get 4-2 Win Saturday Against Macon Mayhem

February 4, 2024

by Bill Vilona, Ice Flyers correspondent

The Ice Flyers’ Malik Johnson skated back to center ice, after chosen as the game’s No. 1 star, tapping his heart to acknowledge the supportive crowd.

For more photos, click here.

This was the desired capper to the weekend, the kind of celebratory scene with former stars and the current team that followed the Ice Flyers 4-2 win Saturday against the Macon Mayhem, thus delighting a sellout crowd of 8,049 at the Pensacola Bay Center.

With two memorable nights on the Ice Flyers 15th anniversary weekend, which was paired with the $5 ticket weekend, the Ice Flyers filled the building from floor to ceiling and honored former players who helped forge the franchise legacy that includes four championships.

But most importantly to this team, a win ensued that was much needed.

“It was cool, it was an awesome weekend,” said Ice Flyers coach Gary Graham referring to the experience presented by back-to-back sellouts. “The (former players) came in (locker room) before the game and got ‘em pumped up. We made them more a part of it (Saturday), behind closed doors, more of an intimate setting with our team.”

After Macon scored the game’s first goal with 11:01 left in the first period, the Ice Flyers tied it less than two minutes later when team captain Garrett Milan scored off a faceoff from an in-traffic assist from Houston Wilson.
This was more than just a tying goal. It was Milan’s first goal in 11 games. And it set a tone for what followed.

“It was great to see Garrett score that first goal,” Graham said. “He’s needed that bad. He has been working his tail off, he’s been battling through some nagging injuries, and he’s been a warrior.

“He puts a lot of pressure on himself… that’s what a captain does when times aren’t going good. I know I’ve been hard on him, too. So to see him finally get that monkey off his back and go to the net hard and get rewarded…. I think it was good for our team to see our captain doing that.

“He was out there finishing checks. He led with his actions on the ice, and I thought the rest of the team really followed his lead.”
Yes, they did.
Four minutes after Milan’s goal, fellow Ice Flyers veteran Ivan Bondarenko finished a perfect pass from Taylor Egan in the slot to give the Ice Flyers a 2-1 intermission lead. Bondarenko then bowed in salute of Egan as the players embraced.
The Ice Flyers almost had a 3-1 lead before the period ended. With 3:41 remaining and a timeout that followed what first appeared on the videoboard replay of a rebound goal, the officials looked extensively at their replay available in the penalty box area. And it was affirmed just as ruled in real time on the ice that it wasn’t a goal.

“When you look at the camera view — and a lot of times you see this in the NHL too — it looks like (puck) is crossing the line, but it’s a depth issue. (The puck) wasn’t across and (officials) had another view they used, and I knew it wasn’t a goal.”

What was a clear goal, however, scored in dramatic fashion by Johnson, occurred early in the second period.

He won a race to the puck on a breakaway against Macon’s diving goaltender who was well out of the crease. Johnson then gained control and with a trailing defender easily tapped the puck into the net for a 3-1 lead.
“He’s one of the fastest guys in the league and it was a good anticipation read on his part,” Graham said. “He read the chip that was happening, and he just beat the goalie to it.”

After the Mayhem added suspense with a shorthanded goal early in the third period, the game stayed 3-2 until the Ice Flyers Nick Leitner fired into an empty net with two seconds remaining.

Macon gained a 6 on 4 situation with their goaltender pulled, after the Ice Flyers were whistled for too many men of the ice with 50.6 seconds later. But the Ice Flyers didn’t allow Macon a clean shot and sealed the game.
“The main thing was Garrett and (Joseph) Widmar did a good job on the (penalty kill) holding the blue line. We just didn’t let (Macon) get into the zone,” Graham said.

Overall, Graham was pleased with his team’s response that followed a deflating 1-0 loss Friday night against first-place Birmingham.

“I thought we came right out of the gate and started putting more pucks at the net,” he said. “I thought the first goal (by Milan) symbolized what we wanted to start doing more and that is just crashing the net.”
When the final horn sounded, 10 former Ice Flyers players came onto the ice with wives and girlfriends for a team photo with the current players. They locked arms in a poignant scene that ended the special weekend.
The Ice Flyers will now be on the road next weekend at Huntsville, while Pensacola celebrates its Mardi Gras weekend of parades. They finished Saturday, however, with their own good times rolling.

“It was rocking. It was exciting,” Graham said. “Obviously, we couldn’t blow the lid off it (Friday night). You don’t want to get shut out on Teddy Bear toss night and you don’t want to get shut out in front of 8,000 fans, but unfortunately that happened. It was disappointing for the guys.”

But the response Saturday became a gratifying end.

For more photos, click here.

WHAT’S NEXT?
WHO: Ice Flyers vs. Huntsville Havoc
WHEN: Friday-Saturday (Feb. 9-10) 7 p.m. both games.
WHERE: Propst Arena, Huntsville, Ala.

Tate Cheerleaders Win FHSAA State Championship; Jay Places Fourth

February 4, 2024

The Tate High School Cheerleaders won the FHSAA Small State Championship Saturday in Lakeland. This was their third state title.

The Jay High School Cheerleaders tied for fourth place in their division.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com.

Ice Flyers Fill Arena, Fall To Birmingham

February 3, 2024

By Bill Vilona, Ice Flyers Correspondent

For more photos, click or tap here.

The Ice Flyers had a filled arena Friday on their special 15th anniversary weekend, created plenty of scoring chances, had strong goaltending and evoked crowd reaction from several hard checks.

But a too-familiar, empty feeling, became the final narrative.

The Birmingham Bulls got a deflected goal midway through the second period and made it stand in a 1-0 victory against the Ice Flyers before a sellout crowd of 8,049 at the Pensacola Bay Center.

“(Bulls) made one more play than we did and that’s what the game came down to,” said Ice Flyers coach Gary Graham. “Tip your hat to Birmingham, they’re the top defensive team in the league for a reason. They are very structured. They defended very well.”

It was the Bulls sixth consecutive win against the Ice Flyers, further burnishing their position atop the SPHL standings. Birmingham backup goaltender, Drennan Atherton, a Winter Haven native, who played a game earlier this season for the Ice Flyers, earned his first shutout by stopping all 34 Ice Flyers shots.

His performance included several big stops in the first period and kept the packed arena from having a goal dance celebration to start the annual $5 ticket weekend. The Ice Flyers will get another opportunity Saturday in a sold-out game against the Macon Mayhem to complete back-to-back discount games.

“I’m disappointed for the guys, because again, I know how badly they wanted to get a win for the big crowd,” Graham said. “But I told them (afterward), we get back here, we’ll have a big crowd (Saturday), we have to get points.
“The urgency of this group, they have to start playing with a desperate, killer instinct. And will it happen? That’s the million-dollar question.”

The Ice Flyers (15-17, 2 OT losses, 32 points) had three power play chances in the game. They were only whistled for one penalty. They were able to pull goaltender Stephen Mundinger with 2:46 remaining and a timeout with a faceoff in the Bulls zone.

But even with chances in that final sequence, they could not get a shot into the net and Birmingham (24-6, 6 OT losses, 54 points) improved to 7-3 in the series with Pensacola this season.

“I go back to the first period all the scoring chances, Grade-As, that we had in the slot and we don’t bear down,” Graham said. “We missed the net a lot. And didn’t create enough second chances, greasy goals around the net. That is the issue for our team. We’ve talked about it this year, we have a forward group that we want it the easy way.

“We’ve gone through this in this season about crashing the net, getting positioning around the net front and scratching and clawing for goals.”

The game’s only goal came on what started as a pass. Birmingham’s Dillon Radin was created for a goal when his play in the goal crease area led to the puck bouncing off a skate and into the net.

“Unfortunately, bounces didn’t go our way,” Mundinger said. “We’re right there. One of those things where we ran into a hot goalie, he played well, but I think if a couple bounces go our way, that game is 5-0. It’s frustrating, but we’re playing good hockey.”

Mundinger was awed by scene in the arena where people were literally sitting in the final row near the Bay Center roof. From ice level to rafter left, the seats were filled. And it will occur again Saturday.

“I feel like every week here, you think like you get the best and it just keeps more and more,” Mundinger said. “Nothing but great things about playing here… more than I could have ever dreamed of when coming here. This is a special weekend. You want to win for everyone that’s there. “

For more photos, click or tap here.

WHAT’S NEXT?
WHO: Macon Mayhem vs. Ice Flyers
WHEN: Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center

Tate Boys Soccer Beats Navarre 3-0 For District Championship

February 1, 2024

The Tate High School Aggies boys soccer team won the District 1-6A championship Wednesday night.

Tate defeated Navarre 3-0 at Ashton Brosnaham Park.

Graphic courtesy Tate Soccer for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

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