ROANOKE, VA. – The Rail Yard Dawgs (32-19-5) overcame a two-goal deficit to take down the Knoxville Ice Bears (32-22-3) 3-2 on Saturday night, clinching home-ice advantage for the first round of the President’s Cup Playoffs for the first time in team history. Austyn Roudebush PIctured) made 40 saves on 42 shots faced, while Matt O’Dea, Gehrett Sargis, and Josh Nenadal scored for the Dawgs.
The first period saw Roanoke come out with intensity, but the Dawgs were sloppy in transitioning defense to offense as Knoxville hammered 20 shots on the Roanoke net in the period to seven by the Dawgs. Roudebush made several highlight reel saves, but Knoxville opened the scoring on its second power play chance of the stanza. Bailey Conger tipped a Justin MacDonald into the net at 15:49 to make it 1-0, and the Ice Bears led by that score at the break.
The Dawgs still struggled to channel their high energy to start the middle frame, as the Ice Bears tipped a puck out of their zone for a Rex Moe breakaway chance down the left wing. Moe scored to make it 2-0 at the 8:34 mark in the frame. From there, Roanoke finally relaxed, and it showed in a span of three minutes in 13 seconds as its offense finally rolled to life. O’Dea smashed a rebound home from a Nick DeVito missed shot off the back wall to make it 2-1 at 15:12. Sargis had two or three consecutive scoring chances on the next shift and hit the crossbar even, before finally redirecting a Stephen Alvo shot at 17:02 to tie the game at 2-2. Nenadal took a pass at the right side of the Knoxville blue line, crossed back to the left wing, and uncorked one of the prettier shots in his Roanoke career to give the Dawgs the lead at 18:25. Heading into the final period, the Dawgs led 3-2.
Roanoke locked down on defense in the third period, holding a trailing Knoxville squad to just six shots in the 20-minute stanza. The game got chippier as the period wound down, and a few Dawgs chances were turned away by the Ice Bears. Finally, in the game’s closing seconds, a couple of big saves by Roudebush coupled with a low-slot clearance by Alvo sealed the deal for the Dawgs, who beat Knoxville for the eighth time in the 14 rivalry matchups this season.
Knoxville’s Kristian Stead saved 36-of-39 shots in the game. The Dawgs went 0-for-1 on the power play, while the Ice Bears were 1-for-3.
Roanoke will have home-ice advantage for its first round matchup of the 2023 President’s Cup Playoffs against the Evansville Thunderbolts next week. Game times, dates, and location will be released shortly.. Single-game playoff tickets go on sale online tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. EST and at 10:00 a.m. EST Monday morning at the Berglund Center box office.