BILOXI, MS – The Mississippi Surge may have been the eighth seed in the 2014 SPHL President’s Cup playoffs but don’t tell the Pensacola Ice Flyers that. The underdog Surge put up a valiant fight Saturday night but fell to the number one seeded Ice Flyers 4-3 in an overtime thriller. With the sweep of the opening round series, Pensacola will now move on to face Knoxville in the best-of-three semifinals.
Playing for their playoff lives, the Surge gave the visiting Ice Flyers everything they could handle and then some. The game was intense, especially in the first period when no less than two fights broke out in the first five minutes of action to go with six roughing minors in the frame. The first bout between Mississippi’s Brett Vandehogen and Pensacola’s Drew Baker came 2:40 in and the second happened at the 4:30 mark when the Surge’s Joe Tolles and the Ice Flyers’ Jeremy Gates went at it.
Despite being outshot badly in the first period 12-3, Mississippi had the lone goal. It came off the stick of Lucas Labelle off an assist from Vandehogen 1:41 after the opening faceoff. An unassisted tally from Andrew Harrison early in the second period increased the home team’s lead to two, giving the fans hope that their team would be able to extend the series.
True to their top seeding, Pensacola did not panic. The Ice Flyers picked up a short-handed goal from Keegan Flaherty at the 5:52 mark of the middle frame to cut the lead in half. Adam Pawlick and Steve Bergin picked up the assists on the tally. Less than a minute later, Ryan Salvis and Brett Lutes combined to set up Joe Caveney beat Mississippi goalie Mathieu Dugas to tie the score.
The Ice Flyers took the lead 11:18 into the final frame when John Dunbar scored a power play goal off of assists from Lutes and Salvis. Tolles then beat Pensacola netminder Ross MacKinnon with a shot at the 14:00 mark on a man advantage opportunity to even things up. Neither team was able to score down the stretch, sending the game into sudden death overtime.
The teams battled well into the first extra period with Pensacola winning the shot battle. Finally as the clock wound into the thirteenth minute of play, Joshua Turnbull played the role of the hero when he scored an unassisted goal that ended the season for the Surge. After the customary handshake lime, the Mississippi fans gave their team a long and loud ovation, an appreciation of the effort the Surge gave them.
MacKinnon, one of the top goalies in the SPHL this season, finished with 20 saves in the contest to post the win. Down the other end, Dugas put in a gutsy effort with 39 saves on the 43 shots he faced.
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