Bryce Nielsen scored the game-winning penalty shot in the ninth round of the shootout and the Knoxville Ice Bears beat the Evansville Thunderbolts 4-3 Saturday night at the Civic Coliseum.
Knoxville won its third straight game. The Ice Bears beat the Thunderbolts in Evansville 4-3 in a shootout Friday night as well.
Nielsen skated up through the right circle slowly and ripped a shot between the pads of Braeden Ostepchuk for the only goal of the shootout. Joe Murdaca didn’t give up a goal in the shootout and also stopped a penalty shot in the second period. Murdaca finished with 33 saves. Ostepchuk stopped 35 shots for Evansville.
Knoxville forced overtime thanks to Gehrett Sargis’ equalizer at 3:58 of the third period. Sargis shot the puck low through traffic from the left side and squeezed it past Ostepchuk for his eighth goal of the season.
Both teams had chances to win it in overtime. Austin Plevy broke free on a breakaway for Evansville, but his backhand attempt sailed wide of the right post. Knoxville had a power play for the final 1:32 of the bonus period, but couldn’t find the basket before settling to win in a shootout.
Evansville took the lead in the first period after the puck bounced out towards the blue line and Braden Hellems skated up and blasted the puck past Murdaca at 11:38. Jacob Smith gave Evansville a 2-0 lead less than a minute and a half later. Smith intercepted a pass in the Knoxville slot and immediately put it on net for his 12th goal of the season.
Lionel Mauron redirected a Lucas Bombardier shot past Ostepchuk at 2:17 of the second to cut Knoxville’s deficit in half. Bombardier shot the puck from the left side and Mauron was screening in front of the crease and got his stick on the puck as it passed by him.
The Ice Bears tied the game 56 seconds later on the power play with Nielsen’s redirect from the slot. Scott Cuthrell held the puck outside the left circle, feigned a slap shot and instead sent it into the slot where Nielsen was waiting for it. The puck ramped off of Nielsen’s stick and over Ostepchuk’s left shoulder.
Stanislav Dzakhov had a chance to push Evansville back in front with a penalty shot at 8:31, but his attempt sailed high after skating down the right hash. The Thunderbolts did take the lead before the end of the period when Zane Jones hit the puck out of the air with a backhand that beat Murdaca at 11:43 to give Evansville a 3-2 lead at the second intermission.
Knoxville heads to Birmingham on Wednesday to take on the Bulls. The Thunderbolts visit Pensacola next Friday for a matchup against the Ice Flyers.
ABOUT The Knoxville Ice Bears: The Knoxville Ice Bears organization began in 2002 and was an inaugural charter member of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) in 2004. As four-time SPHL Champions, the Ice Bears are an experienced and established organization, offering the city and its’ visitors a balanced product of highlight-reel hockey, unique and exciting intermission activity and endless fan interaction, presenting the most affordable, family-friendly way to enjoy sports and entertainment. Season, Partial Season and Flex Tickets are now on sale. For more information, visit www.knoxvilleicebears.com or call (865) 525-7825.