By Thomas Pope
Sports editor of the Fayetteville Observer
The Fayetteville FireAntz team that showed up Tuesday night looked more like the one that lost six games in a row early in the season than the one that would go on to set franchise records for wins and points.
Pensacola, the No. 7 seed in the best-of-three playoff series, upended the second-seeded FireAntz 3-1 with a solid all-around game. Game 2 is Thursday night in Pensacola, with a third game, if needed, here Saturday at 7 p.m., which is a change from the previously announced Sunday.
“There’s no secret, every game’s huge,” said Pensacola coach Rod Aldoff, who led the Ice Flyers to the Southern Professional Hockey League championship a year ago. “Fayetteville’s had an excellent season. We just had to battle it out to try to get the win here, and we accomplished that.”
Pensacola was able to do what it wanted on both ends of the ice. Its defenders were able to force most of Fayetteville’s shots to come from the outside rather than in close on 6-foot-5, 225-pound goalie Matt Zenola. On offense, Pensacola’s skaters outhustled the FireAntz to pucks and stirred up enough traffic in front of Sean Bonar to beat the league’s record-setting goalie twice. Jeremy Gates added an empty netter in the final minute.