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Rail Yard Dawgs Knock Off Ice Bears In Three Games; Huntsville Next

Providing bulletin board material in ice hockey playoffs can prove to be devastating.

Whether Knoxville head coach Jeff Carr was second-guessing himself about comments made about the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs hockey team was uncertain. One thing that was certain is that the number-one seeded Ice Bears are finished for the season and the Rail Yard Dawgs advance to the SPHL semifinals against Huntsville after the Dawgs stunned Knoxville 3-1 Sunday evening at the Knoxville Civic Center.

Carr had offered an opinionated slant on Roanoke’s style of play after the two teams split a two-game set at the Berglund Center during the penultimate weekend of the regular season, calling the Dawgs “a dirty, undisciplined hockey team.” One week later the Ice Bears had rallied to capture the top seed in the 8-team SPHL playoff format, and set to play their opening best-of-three-game quarterfinal against, you guessed it, the 8th seed, last place Dawgs.

With two of the three playoff games scheduled, if even necessary, in Knoxville, Roanoke was the clear-cut underdog. And when Knoxville opened the playoff series last Wednesday with a relatively easy 4-1 win over the Dawgs that saw the Ice Bears grind out to 4-0 lead before Roanoke’s Mac Jansen scored a somewhat meaningless goal with just over two minutes left, Roanoke’s season was teetering on the edge of a cliff.

However, Roanoke responded in game two on the Berglund pond with authority, rolling out to a 5-0 lead before Knoxville scored its only tally on a power play goal with under five minutes left to settle the final 5-1 Dawg victory. Gehrett Sargis scored twice, while Nick DeVito, Travis Armstrong and Brant Sherwood added goals for Roanoke. That sent both teams back to Knoxville for Sunday’s winner-take-all game-3. And, a little doubt in the mind of Ice Bear goalie Jimmy Poreda who had held strong in the pipes for Knoxville in their regular season rally. Now, he was looking to rebound from giving up a five-spot to the Dawgs.

Roanoke picked up where they left off on Saturday, coming out of the gate on fire. Sargis scored the opening goal just 3:37 in and 80 seconds later, Jansen sent a rebound into the twine to double the Roanoke lead. The rattled Knoxville squad pulled Poreda in favor of Kristian Stead and the Ice Bears got to within one on a Stepan Timofeyev power play goal. Roanoke led 2-1 entering the second period.

The second period was close-checking until Nick Ford scored at the 9:46 mark to put the Dawgs up 3-1. That score held until the start of the third period. Roanoke stayed on defense in the third, only taking two shots on net. Stead was pulled with two minutes left, but the Ice Bears couldn’t convert on their 6-on-5 chances. Roanoke goalie Sammy Bernard, the upstart star in the pipes for the Dawgs, stopped 27-of-28 shots he faced in the clincher.

Roanoke will host the Huntsville Havoc for Game One of the SPHL semifinals on Thursday night. Tickets go on sale Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. Huntsville swept the Evansville Thunderbolts 2-0 in their quarterfinal round. The Peoria Rivermen will face the Quad City Storm in the other semifinal series.

Bill Turner

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