The Ice Bears returned home to the Civic Coliseum tonight for the final game in their best-of-three series against the Mississippi RiverKings. Balanced play throughout first two periods and a dominating third period sealed the win for the Ice Bears 6-3. The win knocked the RiverKings out of the playoffs ending their season and pushed Ice Bears on to the final four.
The Ice Bears scored first, setting the tone for the game. Dan Bremner ripped a slap shot past Mississippi goalie Scott Darling with 11:30 remaining in the first period. The goal was assisted by Emery Olauson and Kevin Swider.
The RiverKings answered the goal 45 seconds later to tie the game at 1. Darling fought off 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 opportunities and the period ended with the teams locked in a tie.
Mississippi had an opportunity to break the tie when Tyler Fletcher was penalized for hooking and the RiverKings were awarded a penalty shot. The shot was taken by Deven Stillar, but Knoxville goalie Kyle Rank was equal to the task.
At 11:44, Mississippi's Kevin Hamel was penalized for holding to put the Ice Bears at a 5-on-4 advantage. Eric Satim received the puck in the slot and buried it for an Ice Bears to a 2-1 lead. Ricky Helmbrecht and Eric Slais assisted the power play goal.
The Ice Bears exploded in the third period by scoring four goals. Brett Valliquette scored at 2:20. He shot the puck from behind the net, and it bounced off Darling's leg and into the net. Kyle VanderMale and Fletcher were credited with the assist.
Olauson scored the Ice Bears' second unanswered goal, notching his fourth goal of the playoffs at 3:46. Brad Pawlowski and Swider assisted the goal lifting the Ice Bears lead to 4-1. The RiverKings would not go away as Stillar scored at 4:58 followed by another by Kyle Lundale five minutes later.
At 11:14, Swider blasted a shot from the left. The puck was deflected by Darling to his right where Bremner ripped a one-timer for his second goal of the game, lifting the Ice Bears to a 5-3 lead.
In a desperation effort, the RiverKings pulled Darling with 1:28 remaining for a sixth attacker. Segal picked up the puck and sent it down the ice toward the empty net. Bremner picked it up with six seconds left in the game and tapped it in to secure his first professional playoff hat trick and capping off the scoring at 6-3.
The Ice Bears victory moves them into the final four and the second round of the SPHL playoffs. They will play a best-of-three series against the Pensacola Ice Flyers. The first game will be in Knoxville on Thursday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale Monday at 10 a.m.