KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- The Knoxville Ice Bears ended their regular season tonight with their first face-off against the Louisiana Ice Gators. A crowd of 4,271 Knoxville fans gathered in the Civic Coliseum to watch the Ice Bears challenge the second seeded team in the league.
The Ice Bears held the lead through two periods, but Louisiana rattled off four unanswered goals in the third and defeated the Ice Bears 6-3. Tonight’s loss solidified Knoxville’s seventh place ranking in the SPHL and confirmed that Louisiana and Knoxville will play each other in the first round of playoffs.
Knoxville lit the lamp early into the first period when Francis Drolet fired a bad angle shot past Matt Zenzola at 2:34. Stephen Nardi received his first professional point with the first assist, and Jon Higgins received the second assist. Tyler Klein scored one minute later to boost the Ice Bears’ lead to 2-0. Drolet and Eric Satim were credited with the assists. The Ice Bears skated a 5-on-3 advantage in the first, but their lead held at 2-0 entering first intermission.
Louisiana cut the Ice Bears lead in half at 3:23 into the second period. The Ice Gators thought that they tied the game on a power play shot 2 minutes later, but the goal was waved for being played by a high stick. At 13:12, Ice Gator Adam Stuart was penalized 2 minutes for hooking, giving the Ice Bears the power play advantage. Fulton capitalized on the advantage and pushed the Ice Bears’ lead to 3-1. Kevin Christmas and Nardi assisted the power play goal.
With 1:22 left in the second, Louisiana shot past Ice Bears’ goaltender Cody Rosen to close the gap to 3-2 skating into the second intermission. Louisiana tied the game at 1:11 of third and in just over 3 minutes the Ice Gators notched 3 goals to take a commanding lead, 5-3.
At 10:13, Knoxville’s Peter Neal and Louisiana’s Tyler Barr were both given 2 minute penalties setting up 4-on-4 play. The Ice Gators tallied their final goal during the 4-man play. Knoxville was unable to cut into the 3 goal deficit and finished the game falling 6-3.
With the conclusion of tonight’s game the Knoxville Ice Bears officially enter the SPHL Playoffs.
The Ice Bears will play all three games of their first playoff series on home ice at the Civic Coliseum.
Game one is Friday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. Game two follows on Saturday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. In the event that a third game is needed to decide the best in a three-game series, the third game will be on Sunday, March 30 at 5 p.m.
Be sure to solidify your playoff tickets by ordering your tickets in advance. You do not want to miss the opportunity to cheer on the Ice Bears as they battle for the ’13-’14 SPHL Presidents Cup.