Bulls earn first two wins of season with back-to-back shutouts of Knoxville

Published 2:46 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

The Birmingham Bulls are in the win column for the first time this year after sweeping a home-and-home set with the Knoxville Ice Bears.

The Bulls beat the Ice Bears, 5-0, in Knoxville on Friday, Oct. 27, before returning to the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena on Saturday, Oct. 28 for a 6-0 win, anchored by great performances by Kishaun Gervais and Hayden Stewart as both won SPHL Player of the Week honors.

After the Bulls started the season 0-2, they took advantage of their first matchup with the Ice Bears to get back on track. Drake Glover scored five minutes into the game off assists from Nikita Kozyrev and Carson Rose to take a 1-0 lead, and then after a Dylan Johnson tripping penalty put Knoxville on the power play, Gervais flipped the momentum with a shorthanded goal.

The Bulls carried in a 2-0 lead into the second period, and they doubled their advantage in the back half of the period thanks to Gervais’ second goal of the night and Matt Weisner’s first score of the season.

The third period descended into chaos even with Birmingham up 4-0, with nine penalties and three separate fights, including one that led to a game misconduct penalty on Justin Portillo for being the aggressor in a fight. Portillo was later given a five-game suspension by the league for the penalty.

One of those fights led to a five-minute power play for the Bulls, and Dylan Johnson used the man advantage to send in the final goal of the night to close out a 5-0 win on the road.

The Bulls out-shot the Ice Bears, 40-18, and Stewart saved all 18 of the shots he faced to earn his first shutout win of the season.

The scene shifted to Pelham for Saturday night, but the Bulls picked up right where they left off for another dominant victory.

After a scoreless first period, Gervais got back to his scoring ways with a pair of second period goals to put the Bulls up 2-0. Then, less than a minute after Gervais’ second score, Troy MacTavish earned his first goal of the season to give the Bulls a 3-0 lead going into the second intermission.

Birmingham sealed the victory in the third period by doubling the lead in just five-and-a-half minutes. With nine minutes to go, Kozyrev kicked off the offensive rally with his first goal of the season.

Then, after a Dilan Peters hooking penalty put the Ice Bears on the power play, Gervais worked his magic for the second night in a row with another shorthanded goal to give him a hat trick.

Finally, Dylan Johnson closed out the scoring with a goal to put the finishing touches on a 6-0 win to get the Bulls back to .500.

This time, the Bulls racked up 55 shots against the Ice Bears’ 19. Stewart posted another shutout after stopping all 19 shots for his second in consecutive nights.

After improving to 2-2, the Bulls will take a trip north to face the Huntsville Havoc in a two-game series on Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center. Both games will start at 7 p.m.

The Bulls will return home on Friday, Nov. 9 for a two-game homestand. They will first face the Pensacola Ice Flyers on Friday before hosting the Macon Mayhem on Saturday, Nov. 10.