Bulls complete sweep of Quad City behind Brey’s first shutout
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
PELHAM – On the back of a first-career shutout from rookie goaltender Art Brey, the Birmingham Bulls were able to complete a weekend sweep of the Quad City Storm on Saturday, Nov. 2.
A night after the Bulls gave up four goals in a 6-4 win where Brey was forced to come in and help assure the victory saving six shots on goal, the goalie stepped back on the ice and saved all 39 shots he faced to lead his team to a 3-0 shutout win and a sweep.
With the two victories, Birmingham improved to 3-1-1 overall through the first three weekends of the 2019-20 season, which gives the Bulls a total of seven points and a third place position in the current SPHL standings behind 4-0 Peoria and 5-0-1 Fayetteville.
Brey now has 143 saves this season, which is second in the league, while he has a save percentage of .941 and is tied for second in the league with three wins.
A recap from each game is below.
Birmingham 6, Quad City 4 (Friday, Nov. 1)
The opening game of the season featured a chaotic first period that saw a combined six goals, three from each team, to lead to a 3-3 tie at the end of the opening period.
Birmingham struck first on a goal from Matt Fuller 1:21 into the game off assists from Mike Davis and Josh Harris.
But Quad City answered quickly with two goals of its own in the first 10:30 of the period to take a 2-1 lead.
The Bulls, however, got two big answers. The first came on Fuller’s second goal of the period when he buried home a power-play goal behind assists from Davis and Harris again, as that line continues to be one of the most dangerous in the league early in the season.
What followed less than a minute later may have been even more key. With the Storm on a power play, Birmingham was able to shift momentum off a short-handed goal from Shaquille Merasty that broke a 2-2 tie and put the Bulls in front.
In a back-and-forth game, however, Quad City bounced back to tie the game at 3-3 with a goal from Cody Walsh with 5:01 remaining in the period.
The second period was a complete shift to a defensive battle. While the two teams still got 24 combined shots on goal, only one found the back of the net, and it was off the stick of Quad City’s Dalton Smith to put the storm in front 4-3 going to the final period.
But remarkably, the Bulls were able to answer 1:34 into the final period on a second short-handed goal of the night when Kasey Kulczycki found himself in a breakaway that ended with the game-tying goal.
That was the first of three unanswered goals from the Bulls in the final period. With 6:19 remaining, Fuller found the back of the net to complete a hat-trick night, while Austin Dae added an insurance goal three minutes later to put away the 6-4 win.
Fuller and Harris ended the game with three points apiece, while Canon Pieper, Davis and Merasty all had two points. Brey saved all six shots he faced in the game, while backup Carsen Chubak saved 25 out of 29 shots faced.
Birmingham 3, Quad City 0 (Saturday, Nov. 2)
Having played Quad City the night before, head coach Jamey Hicks and the team made the necessary adjustments on both sides of the ice heading into the second game looking for the sweep.
Not only did it help having Brey in net for the entire game, but the intensity was there early and the game plan was executed to perfection.
In the opening period, Quad City outshot the Bulls 12-10, but it felt like Birmingham was controlling the game. As soon as the puck hit the ice, the Bulls were able to control it in their zone with several great looks, but no shot was able to find its way into the back of the net.
But Birmingham’s intensity limited the Storm’s time of possession, while the Bulls had also upped their defensive play.
That led to a scoreless first period one night after the two teams combined for six first-period goals.
That changed quickly in the second period thanks to Merasty. In the right spot at the right time, he was able to corral the puck on a rebound off the board right next to the net where he slid it just past the goaltender’s foot for a 1-0 lead 2:56 into the period.
It looked as if that would be all of the scoring in the period but with less than a minute to play, Jacob Barber was able to find the back of the net off some great playmaking from his teammate.
After gathering a pass from Harris, Davis wasn’t in position to take a shot, so he slid a no-look pass backwards through his legs to Barber, who buried a shot into the left side of the net to extend the lead to 2-0.
Despite a strong attack from Quad City in the final period, Birmingham’s defense stood tall and Brey made several saves in traffic, while Davis went on to add an insurance goal with 2:06 left to complete the 3-0 win.
Barber, Davis and Harris all had two points in the game, while Pieper, Merasty and Cole Golka each added one point.
The Bulls will now get set to host Pensacola on Friday, Nov. 8, with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m., before traveling to Pensacola a day later.