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Michael Mercurio scored at 7:04 of the third to put the Ice Bears ahead for good as Knoxville defeated Macon 3-1 to open the season at the Civic Coliseum Friday night. The opener begins the Ice Bears’ 20th season as a franchise.
Jimmy Poreda made 22 saves in net for Knoxville. The rookie was making his first start in the SPHL after playing only five games last season in Finland following the cancellation of his senior season at SUNY-Plattsburgh.
Stefan Brucato opened the scoring for Knoxville 25 seconds into the second period when he redirected a shot by Kyler Matthews. Matthews fired a wrister from the blue line and Brucato got his stick on it in front of the crease to cut the puck past Dillon Kelly to give the Ice Bears a 1-0 lead.
Don Carter Jr. evened the score when he stole the puck from Jason Price at the blue line, skated down the right wing and outmaneuvered Poreda at 7:31 of the second.
Mercurio tallied the game winner when Steven Leonard fed him the puck from the right point to the high slot. A wide open Mercurio skated in and ripped a wrist shot over the glove of Kelly to put Knoxville ahead to stay.
Carter Cowlthorp added some insurance with a snipe from the top of the right circle at 9:45.
The Ice Bears will next travel to Birmingham next Friday. Macon will be in Peoria next Friday.
ABOUT The Knoxville Ice Bears: The Knoxville Ice Bears organization began in 2002 and was an inaugural charter member of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) in 2004. As four-time SPHL Champions, the Ice Bears are an experienced and established organization, offering the city and its’ visitors a balanced product of highlight-reel hockey, unique and exciting intermission activity and endless fan interaction, presenting the most affordable, family-friendly way to enjoy sports and entertainment. Season, Partial Season and Flex Tickets are now on sale. For more information, visit www.knoxvilleicebears.com or call (865) 525-7825.