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Kristian Stead made 49 saves and the Ice Bears rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the Evansville Thunderbolts 3-2 at the Ford Center Saturday night.
Knoxville has won two of its last three. It was only the fifth time all season Evansville lost when scoring the first goal. The Ice Bears also claim the regular season series against the Thunderbolts with the win.
Scott Kirton scored early for the Thunderbolts when he backhanded a rebound past Stead just 1:16 into the game. Andrew Shewfelt redirected a Pierre-Luc Lurette wrist shot that changed directions on Stead and bounced by his blocker inside the short-side post at 9:41.
Bailey Conger cut Knoxville’s deficit in half late in the period with a wrist shot from the right circle. Vincenzo Renda held in a clearing attempt at the right point and slid the puck up to Conger at the half board. Conger skated deep into the right circle and beat Trevor Gorsuch’s glove at 18:09.
Justin MacDonald scored his SPHL-leading 33rd goal of the season on the power play to tie the game at 17:20 of the second. Dino Balsamo exchanged the puck with Conger at the top of the zone. Conger carried into the slot and dished it to MacDonald in the right circle, where he pummeled a one-timer past Gorsuch.
Razmuz Waxin-Engback scored 28 seconds later to give Knoxville its first lead of the night. After Stead denied Cameron Cook on a two-on-one, Nick Pryce and Cam Hough worked the puck through the neutral zone in transition. Pryce dug the puck out of the left corner and slid it back to the circle, where Waxin-Engback struck it with Gorsuch being screened and the puck found the net.
Evansville appeared to tie the game early in the third when Matt Dorsey tapped in a loose puck by the crease, but the goal was immediately disallowed due to Brandon Harrogate being called for goalie interference.
Harrogate nearly tied the game for Evansville with a breakaway a few moments later, but Stead got his right pad on the shot. The Thunderbolts took control of the puck for most of the final ten minutes, but couldn’t get a shot past Stead. He covered up a shot from the high slot with 13 seconds remaining and swallowed a wrister from the right circle with a second left to seal the win.
Knoxville will host Roanoke on Friday for the front end of a home-and-home against the Rail Yard Dawgs. Evansville remains at home and meets Birmingham 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 and five-time regular season 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.