The Ice Flyers spent the week without ice.
The Louisiana IceGators spent the day without transportation.
This collision of bizarre circumstances then turned even more strange, but the Ice Flyers ended Friday night as the team most relieved.
After jumping to a 5-0 lead in the first period, the late-arriving IceGators made it suspenseful late into the final period, until crowd favorite David Segal’s empty net goal sealed a 6-3 win at the Pensacola Bay Center.
It also ended the Ice Flyers five-game winless streak.
“We finished the game well, got the two points,” said Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff. “The last couple minutes with (IceGators) goalie out, we made some big plays, put the puck in the net and finished them off, so it was good overall.”
But oh, how it got to that point.
The IceGators team bus broke down early Friday afternoon on Interstate 10, just on the other side of New Orleans. Another bus had to be called. By the time the IceGators arrived at the Bay Center it was already well-past the scheduled 7:05 start time.
The game didn’t begin until nearly 8 o’clock. The IceGators literally got off the bus, threw on their hockey equipment, laced up skates and warmed up for five minutes before the opening faceoff.
“We’ve all been in that situation in minor league hockey,” Aldoff said. “Everybody has gone through it in their life. It happens and it’s obviously out of their control.
“They adapted to it. I thought they played better as the game went on and were loose, which made for a better third period.”
The Ice Flyers seized the early opportunity.
They scored less than two minutes into the game when Stephen Buco deflected a shot from the blue line over the shoulder of IceGators goaltender Brad Barone.
That started a barrage. Adam Pawlick and Joe Caveney followed with power play goals two minutes apart. Pawlick added another one, then newly-acquired Sean Rudy provide the fifth goal with 2:16 left in the first period.
And it’s 5-0, just like that.
“That’s great. It’s wonderful… but it’s also how you play the rest of the minutes,” said Aldoff, who was not pleased with how the rest of the game transpired. “We had some bounces too.. And they just got off the bus.
“But at the end of day we took advantage of those situations and put the puck in the net and that was good. It was two points… I’m happy and we’re getting ready for Sunday (next game).
Louisiana scored goals in the final minute of the first and second period. When they got their third goal with 3:22 into the third period, an unsettling feeling hit the crowd of 3,721.
But the Ice Flyers avoided their own disaster by playing harder in the final 10 minutes and controlling play for most of the way.
Segal was among the players who was noticeable. Each of his shifts was spent fore-checking and creating plays. Fittingly, Pawlick found him after the IceGators pulled their goalie with 2:19 left for an extra attacker.
Segal scored the empty-netter 14 seconds later.
“When he skates, fore-checks and stays disciplined, he can be a difference maker,” Aldoff said. “He can be a real asset to our team.”
The Ice Flyers had goaltender John McClean back, after reacquiring him Friday. They also added defenseman Tyler Amburgey and Rudy.
Amburgey played eight games for the Ice Flyers in 2014 and was part of their second championship season. Last year, he played for three different teams, including Peoria and Louisiana in the SPHL.
Rudy, 25, played earlier this year for the Elmira (NY) Jackets in the ECHL and Macon in the SPHL.
The night also ended with the Ice Flyers donated nearly $5,000 to the tornado relief efforts. They will also donate $1 from every ticket sold Sunday, along with other fund-raising efforts to give to the storm victims.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Ice Flyers hockey.
WHO: Fayetteville FireAntz vs. Ice Flyers
WHEN: Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center.
RADIO: ESPN-Pensacola (1450 AM, 101.1 FM)
PROMOTION: SundayFunday by Pen-Air Federal Credit Union. Entertainment, family-activities before and during game. Team autograph session on arena concourse after game.