Knoxville scored twice in a span of less than two minutes in the first period and held off the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs for a 3-1 win in SPHL action Friday at Berglund Center.
Those two goals came when the Ice Bears picked up their offensive pressure after withstanding an early effort from Roanoke.
By the time the Dawgs got their only goal, Knoxville had a three-goal lead and there was less than 4 minutes remaining. Roanoke’s goal at 16:22 of the third period was scored when C.J. Stubbs lifted the puck into the top corner on a rebound of a Jeff Jones shot.
“There was a shot on net and the puck sat there on the crease,” Stubbs aid. “I knew I had to get it upstairs.”
Too little, too late for the Dawgs offense that matched the Ice Bears with 33 shots on goal.
Roanoke started strong, dominating possession through the first six minutes and recording the game’s first four shots on goal. When Knoxville finally mounted a charge, Lionel Mauron was able to win the race to a loose puck in front of goalie Henry Dill and score the first goal at 8:25 of the first period. Just 93 seconds later Pierre Ouellette rocketed home a shot from inside the blue line that went past two players directly in Dill’s line of sight.
Dawgs coach Dan Bremner said the team lacks consistency right now.
“We played strong the first five minutes. We outworked them,” Bremner said. “We got a power play out of it and had some chances on the power play, then our guys thought it was going to be easy. That’s a common theme here. Our consistency absolutely stinks. We stopped winning races, we stopped battling for pucks.”
The second half of the first period and the entire second period were a rarity in hockey: a 30-minute stretch with no goals and no penalties. The teams parried and feinted, but could not solve the opposing goalies. Dill finished with 30 saves and Knoxville’s Joseph Murdaca had 32.
The usual roughhousing emerged in the third with Josh Nenadal going to the box in a co-incidental minor and Brant Sherwood earning a fighting major for tangling with Knoxville’s Dwyer Tschantz after Stubbs lit the lamp.
Bremner said the team was playing physical in the final two periods, but knows staying out of the penalty box is its best tactic.
“When you’re defending each other, there’s a time and place for all that, but this is a tight [team] and we’re going to defend each other,” Bremner said. “Team toughness for me is being willing to take a punch for your buddy to get put on the power play. It’s good that were staying out of the box, but we might need another degree of meanness. We need to make sure the other team feels those hits.”
The Dawgs are tied for seventh in the 10-team league. The team returns to home ice Saturday at 7 p.m. to face Macon in the last of a four-game stretch at Berglund Center.
After Saturday, Roanoke’s next home games will be three games on consecutive days, all against Peoria, on Feb. 20-22.