Ice Flyers raise banner, beat Columbus

PENSACOLA, FLA – Last Friday night, the Pensacola Ice Flyers got the chance to celebrate its 2013 SPHL President’s Cup championship in front of over 4,000 fans at the Pensacola Bay Center. By the time the evening ended, there was a title banner in the rafters and the 2013-2014 team had a 6-2 win over the Columbus Cottonmouths as icing on the cake.

Pensacola's championship banner (PHN photo by Vanessa Johnson)

Pensacola’s championship banner (PHN photo by Vanessa Johnson)

Team captain Ryan Salvis skated with the championship cup before the banner was raised.  As soon as it was displayed, the crowd came to their feet joining many of the players from last seasonwho  were in attendance to relive the moment one more time.  An especially moving moment was watching Dan Buccella and Brad Cooper, both of whom retired during the off-season, turn and look back one last time at the banner as they were leaving the ice.

“It was an exciting game, an exciting night, and a moment in history,” Bucella said.

When he was asked about the ceremony, Cooper’s thoughts were with the fans, saying that Pensacola has the best in the league.

The Ice Flyers fell behind in the game early as Columbus’ Matt Gingera scored off a rebound just 1:30 into the first period. Four minutes later, Cottonmouths defenseman Tom Maldonado scored a power play while Pensacola’s Mitchell Good was in the box to give the visitors a two goal lead.

Things started heating up when Ice  Flyers’ defenseman Drew Baker beat Columbus goalie Jesse Chenard with a shot on a power play just one second past the midpoint of the period. Mark Thorburn, brother of Winnipeg Jets forward Chris Thorburn, and Josh Turnbull helped with the assists on the tally.

Columbus had an opportunity to back up by two late in the period when Gingera was awarded a penalty shot. Pensacola netminder John Griggs stared down Gingera and stopped the attempt, keeping his team within one and exciting the crowd.

Not wanting to let the home fans down on such a big night, the Ice Flyers came out hot in the second period. Joe Caveney tied the game 1:19 in on a power play that carried over from the opening stanza with the assist of Good and Paul Rodrigues. A mere two minutes later, the trio were at it again as Good and Rodrigues set up Caveney for his second of the night to put the Ice Flyers up 3 – 2.

Good picked up his third assist of the contest when he and Donnie Harris set up Adam Pawlick for yet another man advantage goal that gave the Ice Flyers a two goal lead.  Things got a bit testy late in the stanza as Pensacola’s Joe Bueltel and Columbus’ Kevin Kessler waged a heavyweight battle on the ice with Kessler picking up an extra penalty for roughing.

Because of Kessler’s penalty, the Ice Flyers were on a power play to start the third period.

The Ice Flyers celebrate an opening night win (PHN photo by Vanessa Johnson)

The Ice Flyers celebrate an opening night win (PHN photo by Vanessa Johnson)

Shaun Arvai made the Cottonmouths pay with his first goal of the season with assists going to Caveney and Good. The Ice Flyers struck for number six when Good, with an assist from Caveney, connected for what would be the final goal of the game. With the game well in Pensacola’s control, tempers flared off the ensuing face-off as Bueltel the Volcano erupted once again, this time squaring off with Cottonmouth Will Aide. Everyone calmed down after that and the game finished with no further incidents.

For the game, Griggs finished with 22 saves to post the victory while Chenard stopped 40 in taking the loss. Good, Caveney and Rodrigues were named the game’s three stars.

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