Nearly a month had passed since Corey Banfield scored a goal.
His pro hockey experience, however, taught him to never fret or fall temptation to superstition.
“It’s a long season and it can turn around,” he said.
It turned back to terrific Sunday when Banfield and the Pensacola Ice Flyers produced an exclamation on a perfect-points weekend with their 6-3 victory against the Peoria Rivermen.
The win at the Pensacola Bay Center completed a three-game, weekend sweep of the league’s first place team. Banfield, whose last goal was Feb. 28, scored the game-tying goal midway through the second period and a game-sealing one with 3:15 remaining.
“We played three playoff games I thought this weekend,” said Banfield, after three emotion-charged games against Peoria. “It will be a good warmup for a couple weeks when we are actually in the real thing.”
From quite awhile to quite the wow for Banfield.
His two goals were part of high output from the top-scoring line in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Center and captain Adam Pawlick, who scored the go-ahead goal just eight seconds into the third period, assisted on three other goals, including both from Banfield.
Joe Caveney had two assists.
“Those guys are elite players and had a great game, along with everybody,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “A lot of guys did the little things that don’t show up on the scoresheet.
”A lot of guys made some big plays in d-zone (defensive) coverage and (goaltender) John (McLean) made some big saves at crucial times so it was a great team effort.”
In winning, the Ice Flyers (28-17-4) took the season-series (5-3) against Peoria. They climbed into a second-place tie with the Mississippi RiverKings. They are three points ahead of (fourth place) Knoxville.
It was the Ice Flyers fourth consecutive win and sixth in a row without a regulation-game loss. Since going five games without a win, the Ice Flyers have lost only twice in their past 11 games.
“I think that was the three best games we have played all year,” Banfield said. “We’re starting to peak at the right time, which is really important when you’ve got the playoffs (starting) in three weeks.”
The Ice Flyers surged while shorthanded on their bench. They played all three games against Peoria with 16 players, two under the standard lineup.
While Sunday did not have the fury of Saturday night’s game, a 3-2 Ice Flyers win in a game which included five fights and 110 penalty minutes combined, there were 13 power play chances Sunday between these teams. No fights, however.
“It was a tough weekend, it was a tough series,” Aldoff said. “Our specialty teams came up big. Our goal coming into the weekend was to play nine good periods and that’s what we did. Hat’s off the guys, they played excellent.”
The Ice Flyers will again play three games in three days this week. This time, it will be Thursday-Saturday and two of those games (Macon and Louisiana) will be on the road.
In the final period Sunday, the Ice Flyers showed their mettle. Seconds after the center-ice faceoff, Caveney gathered the puck off the boards, slid a pass to Pawlick, who scored one of the fastest goals in team history to give the Ice Flyers a 4-3 lead.
“I was still turning around in the neutral zone,” said Banfield, laughing. “I think Joe got the puck in the slot and Adam just drove the net and he put a great pass on his stick and Adam just had to slide it home.”
The score stayed that way until Banfield deflected a Pawlick wrist shot into the net with less than four minutes left. Peoria pulled goaltender David Jacobson with less than 90 seconds remaining, but the Ice Flyers Stephen Buco got a loose puck and sent it into the empty net.
Buco scored the game’s first goal on a 5-on-3 power play situation less than seven minutes into the first period.
“It says a lot about those guys in there,” Aldoff said. “It was a tie game, 3-3, and it was basically a 20-minute weekend for us. We weren’t satisfied with just two wins. We wanted to finish it off.
“Guys came out and were committed, stayed strong and skated hard right to the very end. As a coach that’s all you can ask for and it was very good to see.”
In getting his two goals Sunday, Banfield broke an eight-game, goal-scoring drought. Since Feb. 1, he had only two goals.
“Sometimes you go through weeks where the puck just doesn’t find the back of the net,” he said. “The key is to just stay with it. Just stick with the gameplan and doing the right things.
“My first year in the league, I would have tweaked some stuff. I have been around long enough now to know that really doesn’t change anything. You have just go out and work hard.”
The work ethic is something Aldoff has tried to preach with the entire team. After games where Aldoff had been irate over performance, he reminded the players this weekend they were rewarded. It was the first time Peoria had lost three in a row.
These two teams met two weeks ago in Peoria where the Rivermen took two of three games, but all were close.
“We believe in ourselves,” Aldoff said. “Like I always tell the guys: you deserve what you get and I believe we deserved what we got this weekend. Six points, hats off to the guys.”
WHO: Ice Flyers vs. Macon Mayhem
WHEN: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Macon Centreplex, Macon, Ga.
NEXT HOME GAME: Friday, vs. Louisiana Ice Gators at 7:05 p.m,
WHAT’S LEFT: The Ice Flyers have seven remaining games, three at home. They are tied for second place, three points ahead of Knoxville (fourth place). seven points ahead of Fayetteville (fifth place) for a home-ice edge in first round of playoffs.