The Pensacola Ice Flyers defeated the Huntsville Havoc 2-0 in the Southern Professional Hockey League President’s Cup Finals championship last Sunday, April 14.
“Throughout the season, I had no doubt in my mind we would accomplish this,” Ice Flyer defenseman Brad Cooper said in a Pensacola News Journal article.
But in the deciding game of the best-of-three President’s Cup Finals, the odds shifted early as Ice Flyer left wing Patrick Knowlton was left unattended at the left corner of the crease. A combination of passes from John Dunbar to Brandon Vossberg set up a chance that Knowlton took advantage of and buried the puck into the back of the Havoc’s net.
At just two minutes and seven seconds the Ice Flyers were already up by one.
“It was huge for the team, but we knew it was just a matter of time before we got a few goals in on this guy,” Knowlton said in a PNJ article. “He was outstanding for two straight games, but tonight, we wanted to break his will. We knew we were going to get our chances, we just had to bear down and get one in.
“We did that early on and built off that.”
The last nail in the coffin for the Havoc came in the second period when Cooper scored a second goal.
Taking a pass from Dunbar during a rush deep in the Havoc zone, Cooper’s initial shot was blocked behind the net. Following through on the play, the Boca Raton native picked up the puck, carried it around the net and scored on a clean wraparound.
But 7:28 still remained in the period.
Fortunately, Huntsville never was able to overcome the two-point deficit.
The Ice Flyers became just the fourth team from the state of Florida to ever win a hockey championship, joining the 2012 ECHL Florida Everblades, 2004 NHL Tampa Bay Lightning and 2001 IHL Orlando Solar Bears.
More than 4,500 fans filled the bottom bowl of the Bay Center, creating a Stanley Cup feel for the postgame awards ceremony.
“These fans deserve it, for sure,” Flyers goaltender Ross MacKinnon told the News Journal. “This is so special. It’s just great to bring hockey to light in Pensacola. To be part of history, the first championship, is something that’s very special.”