The FIHL was back in action after the holiday break on Saturday, January 9 at the Clearwater Ice Area in solid matchups that saw the Sting Rays take on the Sand Sharks and the Aces versus the Minute Men.
In the first game, the second-place Sting Rays handed the Sand Sharks their first loss of the season by a score of 8-4. The Sand Sharks scored first when Andrew Shillings netted a power play goal with 12:53 left in the first period. The Sting Rays answered twenty-five seconds later on a shorty by Cameron Smalley in his first appearance in the FIHL playing as a pool player. The Sting Rays took a 2-1 lead with 6:01 left in the first on a goal by Tyler McDuffie. The Sting Rays went up 3-1 early in the second period when Smalley scored his second goal of the game with 18:19 left in the period. Smalley would then leave the game due to a lacerated ear on a high sticking play and would not return. The Sand Sharks answered less than three minutes later with goal by Chadwick Sieler to cut the Sting Rays’ lead to 3-2. The Sting Rays again took a two-goal lead when Erik LaFlamme scored with 10:42 left in the second, then went up 5-2 when McDuffie scored a power play goal with 6:03 left in the second period. The Sand Sharks cut the lead to 5-3 with 15:51 left in the third period on a goal by Julian Pontoni before the Sting Rays answered with 5:09 left on a goal by Alex Myers. The Sand Sharks’ Shillings scored a shorty with 3:29 left in regulation, and less than a minute later the Sting Rays’ Myers scored on the power play. The Sting Rays closed out the scoring on a goal by Tristan Bernard with thirty-two seconds left in regulation for the 8-4 victory. The Sting Rays’ LaFlamme had two assists to go along with his goal, and teammates Ben Morgan and Hayden Kimmel each contributed two assists. The Sand Sharks’ Nathan Souza had two assists. The Sharks used both netminders in the loss with neither goalie being very happy with their results. Shots on goal were Sting Rays 48, Sand Sharks 31.
In the second game, the third-place Aces defeated the Minute Men 12-6 in a matchup that featured three Aces’ hat tricks. The Minute Men got on the board within the first minute on a goal by Vlad Handjiev, set up by the debut of local legend Connor Hill, in his first game in the FIHL as a pool player. The Aces evened the scored with 14:59 left in the first period on a goal by Alec Macdonald, but the Minute Men took a 2-1 lead less than three minutes later on a goal by Wyatt Frontiero. The Aces went on to score four times in the last 7:23 of the first period on goals by Alicea Macdonald, Gavin Frost, and two by Alec Macdonald for the hat trick. The Aces took a 6-2 lead with 16:38 left in the second period on a goal by Josiah Martinez. The Minute Men’s Alex Noti scored with 14:03 left in the second, but the Aces’ Gavin Frost scored with 9:30 left in the period for a 7-3 Aces’ lead. The Minute Men closed out the second period with two goals in the last nine minutes (Maxwell Mondo and Noti) to cut the Aces’ lead to 7-5 going into the third period. The Aces’ Martinez scored with 16:26 left in regulation before the Minute Men answered with a goal by Nathan Bren less than a minute later. Nathan is a 2007 born player hailing from Calgary and was making his first appearance in the FIHL as a pool player. The Aces destroyed any hopes of the Men closing the gap with four consecutive goals in the last 6:31 of regulation, including two by Martinez for the hat trick, one by Frost for the hat trick, and one by Jaxon Law for the 12-6 Aces win. The Minute Men’s Bren had two assists to go along with his goal, while the Aces’ Jack Zerfass contributed two assists. Shots on goal were Minute Men 51, Aces 37.