Fast start to season fizzles quickly with three straight loses
Knoxville it’s hockey time! Your Knoxville Ice Bears have returned for the 2010-2011 season to once again set their sights on claiming the ultimate prize the SPHL’s Presidents Cup. Only three times in the leagues 7 years have the Ice Bears not ended the season hoisting that cup above their heads. After a disappointing end to the season last year Knoxville is looking to fire on all cylinders and take back the silver trophy. After Marc Rodgers left the team and/or was released the Ice Bears went in search of a new head coach to lead them back to the finals. The head office brought back a fan favorite in Mike Craigen and handed the reigns over to him. The 2010 season opened at home for the Bears who were to battle a longtime rival, the Fayetteville Fire Antz. Many will remember that the regular season ended last year with these two teams having a bench clearing brawl and the game eventually being called due to Fayetteville no longer having enough players to continue. These two also matched up in the first round of the playoffs and had one of the longest three game series ever. Game two setting an SPHL record for longest game as it went to almost two complete overtime periods before Knoxville won. The pieces were all there for this game to be an entertaining one. There were more fights than goals for the first two periods as Jensen, Segal, Bulawka, and Hanson all threw down the gloves and relaxed for five minutes in the box. Fayetteville wasted no time in putting a point on the board when the third period started when former Ice Bear Craig Geerlinks tapped the puck into the net. Almost exactly a minute later Knoxville responded when Dallas Costanzo tied the game on a shorthanded goal. Bulawka was sent to the penalty box at 7:23 of the period for interference and the Ice Bears penalty kill was almost successful in fending off the Antz until Cody Zubko found an opening with a single second left on the Knoxville penalty. The Ice Bears were down 2-1 with time running out in the game and needed to respond quickly. When Fayetteville’s Jeffery Borrows was told to go sit for hooking it looked like Knoxville’s last chance to keep this game alive. With seconds left on the power play Knoxville managed to tie up the game 2-2 when Lorne Misita scored the Bears only power play goal of the evening. The final period of regulation ended and the game went to overtime. The crowd of 3,500 attendees was on their feet as the first game of the season was going into extra time. The five minute extra period saw plenty of missed opportunities for both teams but when Fayetteville failed to watch where former Fire Ant Emory Olauson was standing, it cost them the game. Olauson skated behind the defenseman and was left unchecked at the blue line as he received a long pass from Jensen. Emory was all by his self as he madly dashed toward the goalie. One top shelf goal later and Knoxville had won their first game of the regular season. The Ice Bears went to Augusta the next night and beat the new expansion team 5-3. The following Friday they played in Columbus and lost their first game of the season 3-2. Back again to Augusta for a 3-2 victory and Knoxville looked to be doing just fine. That was until they played Augusta again the next Thursday and were handed quite a beat down. While the Ice Bears were only able to score a single goal in each period, the RiverHawks took the liberty of scoring three in the first period, followed by five in the second and adding another goal in the third to destroy the Bears by a score of 9-3. The Hawks then showed that they still had Knoxville’s number by coming into the Ice Bears home and beating them for the second day in a row, a 3-2 win in overtime. It seemed that those back to back loses affected the team because Columbus came into town and walked out with a 5-1 victory leaving behind Knoxville’s first three game losing streak of the year. While new head coach Mike Craigen has assembled a great young team of players, the chemistry that is needed does not seem to be apparent just yet in these men. Hopefully the team will get it together soon or we may be looking at a long journey to the off season.