The Fayetteville Marksmen ran the Knoxville Ice Bears to overtime before finally running out of ammo Saturday with a 3-2 loss. The Marksmen were hampered by recent call ups, and injuries. With a tough schedule the remainder of the season, the Marksmen cannot afford to be caught without at least a reload close at hand.
Knoxville is currently second in the SPHL with 51 points, just 9 behind the Peoria Rivermen. Coming into Saturday’s skate, the Ice Bear had won six of their last seven games. On the other hand, Fayetteville had been on the losing side of 8 in their last 10. The overtime loss extended the Marksmen’s four game OT losing streak.
Neither team scored in the first period and it was only with 24 seconds into the second before Knoxville’ Bailey Conger lit the lamp for the Ice Bears with his 28th goal of the season. But the Marksmen reloaded fast, with Austin Alger scoring his 20th goal of the season less than a minute later. Nick Mangone scored the go ahead for the Fayetteville at the 15:24 mark.
The goal would be Mangone’s 15th of the season.
Knoxville would tie early with a goal at 12:36 with a goal from Dino Balsamo. Balsamo would also score the game winner in the first overtime.
Fayetteville fielded their team without their top scorer Bryan Bowen who was called to the Norfolk Admirals. Bowen was the Fayetteville’s leading scored and ranked 10th in the SPHL in scoring. Shane Bednard was also out for the Marksmen with an undisclosed injury.
Looking ahead, Fayetteville has a tough row to hoe.
February ends with a three game homestead against the Huntsville Havoc who are currently 6th in the league. Huntsville currently holds a 23-13-1 record to Fayetteville’s 17-18-6.
Then the Marksmen face their toughest stretch of road games in March. Fayetteville starts the month with a two game hop to Birmingham to face the Bulls. Birmingham is 3rd in the league. Is there anything more miserable in Birmingham in March, I am not sure. Maybe Birmingham in February?
Next the Marksmen host the Pensacola Ice Flyers who sit right above Fayetteville at 7th. If there was a time to pick up a few games to secure a comfortable play-off spot, it would be the three game series in Fayetteville March 16th, 17th, and 18th.
But their hunt will not be over with the Pensacola series. Fayetteville will head north up Hwy 220 to face a Roanoke Rail Yard Dog’s team that is current fourth in the league. Their play-off spot secured, the Rail Yard Dogs have nothing to do by play, and play hard.
Rounding out the season, the Marksmen will face the two team currently at their back doorstep nipping at their heels to get into the 8 team play-off bracket. The Quad City Storm will come to town on March 31st for a two game series that baring any changes in the standing will have serious play-off implications.
In the final series of the season, the Marksmen will face the Mayhem of Macon. If you recall, Macon currently has the leagues leader in penalty minutes in Sasha Roy, who will be facing his former teammates with play-off potential on the line. This match-up has the makings of the Flint, Michigan MegaBowl, the Charlestown Chiefs v. Syracuse Blazers, and a demolition derby all rolled into one.
Two teams, trying to make an 8 team play-off series with the leagues leading goon facing his old team for the the last time, what could go wrong?
The Fayetteville Marksmen would hold the last spot in the play-offs if the season ended today. Still with call-ups, injuries, and a tougher than nails schedule, all that could change. By no means are they out of the wood, but they hold their fate in their own hands.