KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- The Knoxville Ice Bears hosted the Fayetteville FireAntz for the final regular season contest of the season. The Ice Bears returned home after an impressive win in Augusta last night. Despite an exciting and well-played third period, the Ice Bears lost to the FireAntz 4-3.
Fayetteville scored their first goal 6:18 into the first period to jump an early lead. Fayetteville’s Erik Hudson has only 1 win in 5 starts for the season, but he was able to hold fort as the Ice Bears controlled most of the first period. The teams entered first intermission with Fayetteville leading 1-0.
The Ice Bears took control of the puck at the start of the second period, but Fayetteville stole a misplayed puck and Jesse Cole beat Knoxville’s goalie Kyle Rank between the legs to bring their lead to 2-0.
The crowd of 4,027 fans went wild 3 minutes later when Brad Pawlowski dropped his gloves with Fayetteville’s Kyle McNeil. The two heavyweights exchanged punches and ended with a 5 minute penalty for both players.
At the 9:16 mark, Josh McQuade passed the puck to Rank’s right corner and McNeil snuck it in for their third unanswered goal. After the goal, Knoxville’s Matt Hache took over the net for the Ice Bears to finish out the final 10:44 left in the second period.
Trailing by 3, the Ice Bears entered the third period ready with plenty of jump. Rank returned to the goal to finish out the final 20 minutes of play. Fayetteville had other plans for the Ice Bears, 9:14 into final frame Chris Leveille finished off a two on one to all but seal the Ice Bears’ fate.
Just over a minute later the Ice Bears woke up, Knoxville’s Emery Olauson ignited the score board for his 44th goal of the season which tied Knoxville’s team record for most goals in a single season with Kevin Swider and KJ Voorhees.
The Ice Bears followed with a second goal at the 13:14 mark. Ricky Helmbrecht fed the puck to Eric Slais. Slais sent it to David Segal who ripped the puck past Hudson for his career high, 21st goal of the season. Segal’s goal boosted the score to 2-4.
The Ice Bears pulled Rank to skate for a sixth attacker in an attempt to force overtime. The Ice Bears all-star defenseman Mark Van Vliet scored their third unanswered goal with 57 seconds remaining in the game. Despite a flurry of chances in the waning seconds, the Ice Bears ran out of time and lost 3-4.
The Ice Bears will begin the 2012 playoff season on Wednesday, March 28 at 7:30 pm as they host the Mississippi RiverKings in a best of 3 series. The teams will then travel to Southaven, MS on Friday, March 31 at 7:05 pm (CST). Should the teams split the first two games and need to play a third and deciding game, it will be played in Knoxville on Sunday, April 2 with a puck drop at 5 pm. Playoff packs are on sale and individual game tickets will available on Monday at 865-656-4444 or through www.knoxvilletickets.com.
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