Shot after shot was fired at the net by the Pensacola Ice Flyers in a fast and furious second period Wednesday night at the Bay Center.
Nothing went in, the pucks either going wide or into the glove of Macon goalie Jordan Ruby. The 1-0 deficit in Game 1 of this SPHL semifinal series appeared as if it was going to be impossible to erase.
Momentum shifted in the third, the Ice Flyers coming to life with goals by Patrick Megannety and Ken Neil in a span of a minute and 47 seconds, sending the crowd of 3,012 into a frenzy and generating belief Pensacola was going to move one step closer to a second consecutive championship.
“Our legs were heavy early. We were a step behind,” Ice Flyers head coach Rod Aldoff said. “We got our legs back and grinded and put ourselves in a good spot.”
Momentum can turn on a dime in hockey, and it did for Pensacola, which allowed the top-seeded Mayhem to score twice in the final six minutes to seal the deal on a 3-2 victory in a best-of-three series where room for error is razor thin.
“Two soft plays,” Aldoff said. “It just takes one blink of an eye.”
Those plays Aldoff referred to were goals by Stephen Pierog with 5:55 remaining. He scored off a turnover. Jake Trask delivered the dagger when he punched in a quick goal moments after a face-off.
Pensacola had won its last nine games going back to last season’s 7-0 championship run. Matt Zenola, who finished with 30 saves, saw his nine-game unbeaten postseason streak end as well.
“If we take care of business on two small plays, we wouldn’t be talking about a loss right now,” Aldoff said.
But the Ice Flyers did lose and now they face a long road ahead. They play Macon in a win-or-go-home Game 2 Friday night. Game 3 would be Saturday in Macon if needed.
“There is no written rule on how you do this,” Aldoff said. “We have to win two games. We’ll go up there and play our hearts out.”
Read more about the Pensacola Ice Flyers in the April 27 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.