RiverKings, Ice Flyers clash in decisive Game 3

Playoff Game 3: Mississippi RiverKings (1-1) vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers (1-1)
Series tied 1-1

7:05 p.m., Pensacola Bay Center, Pensacola, Florida

The first round series between the Mississippi RiverKings and Pensacola Ice Flyers returns to Pensacola for a decisive Game 3 in their best-of-three series tonight at the Pensacola Bay Center. The series is tied 1-1 and the game is one of three win-or-go-home games in the SPHL tonight as all three series are tied 1-1. The RiverKings won Game 1, 3-2, in double overtime Wednesday in Pensacola to take a 1-0 lead in the series, but Pensacola responded with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 in Mississippi to force a third game.

The Ice Flyers won six of their last 10 games to finish the regular season 32-18-6, which gave them 70 points. They finished tied with Columbus in points, but the Cottonmouths owned the tiebreaker, so the Ice Flyers finished third in the SPHL. Last year they were the number one seed and beat the Mississippi Surge in the first round 2-0 and then beat the Knoxville Ice Bears and Columbus Cottonmouths the next two rounds to win the President's Cup.

The RiverKings lost their season finale, 4-3, to the Peoria Rivermen March 28 at the Landers Center. Mississippi finished the regular season with a 33-21-2 record and 68 points, two points behind both Pensacola and Columbus. The RiverKings need one win out of a possible two games to advance past the first round for the first time since joining the SPHL. The RiverKings last advanced past the first round in 2008-09 when they went to the third round while still in the CHL.

Broadcast Coverage

Hibu RiverKings Pregame at 7:00 p.m.

Radio: Sports 56/87.7 FM

Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live 

Last time out

The Pensacola Ice Flyers held three one-goal leads, including the final one after scoring 8:08 into overtime to beat the RiverKings, 3-2, Friday night at the Landers Center. The Ice Flyers staved off elimination to force a winner-take-all Game 3 in Pensacola Saturday night.

The Ice Flyers took a quick lead just 2:15 into the first period when Nick McParland fired a one-timer from the slot past Peter Di Salvo to put Pensacola up 1-0. It was his third goal of the series. The RiverKings answered back less than three minutes later when Matt Harrington fired a rebound in the slot into an open net at 5:13. Matt Whitehead started the play with a backhand shot from the right circle. Leo Thomas scooped up the rebound near Max Strang and put it back to the slot, where Harrington buried it for a 1-1 tie.

The game remained even until late in the second period when the Ice Flyers converted on their first full power play of the series. With just 11 seconds to go on the man advantage and 1:11 left in the period McParland connected with Jon Puskar at the left circle, where he redirected the hard pass past Di Salvo for a 2-1 lead. That lead lasted just 26 seconds into the third period before the RiverKings tied the game. Bryon Paulazzo took a shot from the slot, which Strang stopped, but Harrington pushed the rebound back across the crease and Paulazzo dove to tap it into an open net to tie the game at two.

For the second straight game in the series the teams would go to overtime tied at two. This time the Ice Flyers found a winner in the first overtime as Nick Lazorko snapped a wrist shot from the right circle past Di Salvo 8:08 into overtime to give the Ice Flyers a 3-2 win. 


The RiverKings and Ice Flyers met 10 times in the regular season, including the season opener Oct. 24 at the Landers Center. Pensacola won five of the first six, but the RiverKings won the last four meaning both teams ended the series with five wins each. Only one game went past regulation and that was a 2-1 win for the RiverKings in overtime Dec. 12 in Mississippi. The Ice Flyers won three of four in Pensacola and the RiverKings went 4-2 at home. Both teams ended with 25 goals each in the series.

Matt Whitehead was the leading scorer for the RiverKings in the season series with 10 points (3g, 7a). He scored five seconds into the game Feb. 6 at Pensacola, a new SPHL record for fastest goal to start a game, as the RiverKings won their only game in Pensacola, 3-1. Leo Thomas (4g, 4a) and Andrew Randazzo (1g, 7a) were next with eight points each. For the Ice Flyers Corey Banfield had 10 points (5g, 5a) to lead scorers against the RiverKings. 

In net Peter Di Salvo has appeared in six games and is 4-2-0 with a 2.22 goals-against and a .934 save percentage. He has allowed 13 goals and one of his two shutouts this season came against his former team. Adam Courchaine has played in five games and is 1-3-0 with a 2.91 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. For the Ice Flyers Max Strang is 4-3-1 in eight games against the RiverKings. He has a 2.59 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.

Scouting the Ice Flyers

The Ice Flyers finished the regular season by going 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, but 4-1-0 in their final five. That moved their record to 32-18-6 and with 70 points they finished in third place in the SPHL, giving them home ice advantage against the RiverKings in the first round of the playoffs.

Adam Pawlick finished the season tops in the SPHL with 66 points (32g, 34a), giving him the inaugural Kevin Swider Leading scorer award in the SPHL. He finished second in the SPHL in goals, two behind Columbus' Matt Gingers, while playing in all 56 games. Corey Banfield finished second on the team and in the league with 61 points (20g, 41a) in 47 games. He only played three games out of 11 for the Ice Flyers in March, last playing March 20. Brett Lutes was third with 45 points (17g, 28a). Nick McParland had 41 points in the regular season and he scored the only two goals in Game 1 for the Ice Flyers.

In net Max Strang played the majority of the games for the Ice Flyers. In 47 games Strang tied an SPHL record with 28 wins, going 28-14-5 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. He was tops in the league in games played among goalies, wins, goals-against average and saves. The current backup for Pensacola is 6-foot-9 John McLean, who has played in three games since signing out of Gustavus Adolphus College. He is 2-0-0 with a 3.54 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage.

Special teams

The Ice Flyers ended up with the third-best power play in the SPHL, finishing the year at 18.9% (43-for-228). Only Peoria scored more power-play goals this season than the Ice Flyers. On the road Pensacola was 24-for-116 (20.7%) and they went 6-for-36 (16.7%) in the season series against the RiverKings. So far in the series the Ice Flyers have two power plays and they are 1-for-2. Their one unsuccessful power play lasted only 24 seconds.

The RiverKings power play finished the regular season 2-for-33 over their last eight games, moving them to seventh in the SPHL at 14.3% (31-for-217). At the Landers Center they were fifth, going 20-for-125 (16.0%). They finished 8-for-38 (21.1%) on the power play against the Ice Flyers. In the playoffs the RiverKings have three power plays and are 0-for-3, although one was just 24 seconds.

Pensacola's penalty kill was fourth in the SPHL at 82.7% (186-for-225), but their percentage of successful kills falls to 79.5% (93-for-124) away from the Pensacola Bay Center. Only Fayetteville (44) allowed more power-play goals the Pensacola's 39 against during the regular season. 

The RiverKings penalty kill finished second in the SPHL in the regular season, after going 25-for-28 (89.3%) over their last 10 games. They have successfully killed 84.6% (154-for-182) of opponent's power plays this season. They are perfect on the kill in 15 of the last 21 game, going 51-for-57 (89.5%).

Posted by Lukas Favale at 1:30 PM

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PEO y-Peoria 56 38 13 5 81
MAC x-Macon 56 33 16 7 73
PEN x-Pensacola 56 33 16 7 73
HUN x-Huntsville 56 30 16 10 70
KNX x-Knoxville 56 30 20 6 66
EVV x-Evansville 56 27 20 9 63
MRK x-RiverKings 56 29 25 2 60
RKE x-Roanoke 56 26 26 4 56
BIR Birmingham 56 22 28 6 50
FAY Fayetteville 56 12 38 6 30
Full Standings

Updated: April 8, 2018

x-Clinched Playoff Berth
y-Clinched Regular Season Title