KNOXVILLE, TN. – The Rail Yard Dawgs (31-19-5) struggled defensively for the third straight game, falling 7-5 to the Knoxville Ice Bears (32-21-3) on Friday night. Gehrett Sargis and CJ Stubbs each scored twice, while Jordan Xavier added a goal for the Dawgs.
The first period saw both teams come out allergic to defending, as Roanoke dominated offensive zone possession time and Knoxville was clinical on its handful of transition chances. After Roanoke reeled off four shots in the opening 80 seconds, the Ice Bears got a transition score by Justin MacDonald at 1:32 to open the scoring. Xavier tied the score for Roanoke at 7:02 on a rip from the right wing, then Stubbs tallied a rebound goal at 9:04 to push the Dawgs ahead 2-1. That lead evaporated one minute later, as the Ice Bears scored three goals in just 3:06 starting with the game-tying goal at 10:09 by Brett Ouderkirk on a rebound. Knoxville took the lead back for good at 12:34 as Dean Balsamo potted a goal on a 2-on-1 chance. Another rebound goal by Rasmuz Waxin-Engback at 13:15 gave Knoxville a 4-2 lead, despite the Dawgs owning a 15-6 shots on goal advantage at the time. The Ice Bears had three more shots in the frame, but the score remained 4-2 at the end of the period.
Both teams seemed to lose their respective edge offensively in the middle frame, with only 11 combined shots between the sides during the second period. Each team got a power play chance, but didn’t capitalize. Finally, an awkward bounce at the Roanoke blue line created a two-man breakaway chance for the Ice Bears, and Rex Moe scored at 17:21 to make it 5-2. That goal also forced Roanoke to pull Brody Claeys from the net in favor of Austyn Roudebush, and the Dawgs trailed by three heading to the final period.
Knoxville quickly added another goal to start the third period, as Cameron Hough was left alone for a breakaway goal at 1:18 to make it 6-2. The Dawgs battled back, as Stubbs snagged a power play goal at 10:02 and Sargis made it 6-4 at 14:16 to give Roanoke a slim chance. The Dawgs hit the post in the final two minutes when they emptied the net, and Hough then poked the puck the length of the ice before hustling to tap in his empty-netter to make it 7-4 for the hosts at 18:27. Roanoke got a consolation goal when Sargis tipped in a Jarrad Vroman shot, but the Ice Bears pulled out the 7-5 win.
Roanoke can guarantee home-ice advantage for the first round of the postseason in the following scenarios: (1) win tomorrow night; (2) gain a point for an overtime/shootout loss, while Evansville loses in any fashion at Birmingham.
An overtime/shootout loss by the Dawgs paired with an Evansville win would force a coin toss tiebreaker to decide the fourth and fifth seeds (the two teams will not meet in the regular season, so there is no head-to-head tiebreaker).
A regulation loss by the Dawgs would lock them out of fourth place at the hands of Knoxville.
Roudebush saved 7-of-8 shots faced in relief of Claeys, who stopped 8-of-13 shots before he was pulled. Knoxville’s Kristian Stead saved 24-of-29 shots in the game. The Dawgs went 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Ice Bears failed on their lone opportunity.
Roanoke will return home tomorrow night, April 8 at 7:05 p.m. EST against the Knoxville Ice Bears at Berglund Center. Single-game tickets are available now by calling the Rail Yard Dawgs office, visiting the ‘Tickets’ page on our website, or by visiting the Berglund Center box office.
Photo Credit: Michele Hancock // Field Pass Hockey