The Mississippi RiverKings scored three first period goals to stun the Knoxville Ice Bears, 6-3, in game one of their best of three series.
Jeff Topilko scored two of those opening period goals, one off an Ice Bears turnover in their own end.
Emery Olauson had two goals and Kevin Swider three assists for Knoxville in a losing effort.
The Ice Bears rallied in the second period to tie the game at three all briefly before Mississippi tallied two more scores and goalie Kyle Rank was pulled in favor of Matt Hache.
Hache didn't allow another goal, although the RiverKings put in an empty net goal to seal their win.
The series shifts to Mississippi Friday for game two, now a must win situation for Knoxville. Should the Ice Bears prevail, they would return home for game three on Sunday.
This is what the Ice Bears had to say about the game:
The Ice Bears welcomed the Mississippi RiverKings to the Coliseum tonight for their first of the best of three playoff series. The Ice Bears showed flashes of a championship team but it wasn't enough to overcome two disallowed goals and ultimately fell 6-3 to the RiverKings.
The Ice Bears pressured the RiverKings from the start, but it was Mississippi who scored the first goal taking the lead 3:46 into the first period. Just under 4 minutes later, the Ice Bears scored what they thought was a tying goal, but it was disallowed by the referee because he lost sight of the puck.
With 8:31 left the Ice Bears appeared to have tie at 1 again. The puck set in front of Mississippi goalie David Wilson's right leg, and Olauson poked it in. The ref disallowed a second goal, claiming the whistle blew before the puck crossed the goal line.
The RiverKings scored their second goal giving them a 2-0 advantage. Under 2 minutes later, the Ice Bears scored at 15:04 to officially join the scoreboard. Kevin Swider passed the puck to Emery Olauson ripped a shot past the goalie's glove.
Mississippi's Jeff Topilko ended the period scoring his second goal of the game and leading 3-1 at first intermission. The Ice Bears came back strong in the second period. When Topilko was penalized 2 minutes for goaltender interference, the Ice Bears capitalized on the power play. Olauson scored his second goal of the game with assists from Swider and Mark Van Vliet 49 seconds into the middle frame.
At the 1:57, the Ice Bears were once again on the power play. David Segal took advantage of the power play as he caught the puck right in front of the net and shot it in to tie the game at 3. Swider and Ricky Helmbrecht were credited with assists.
The RiverKings answered the Ice Bears' two goals with two of their own, lifting them to a 5-3 lead to end the second period. After the RiverKings fifth goal, Knoxville's Matt Hache relieved Kyle Rank in goal to finish out the game.
Despite a great effort, Knoxville couldn't penetrate the defensive shell put up by Mississippi. The Ice Bears pulled Hache to skate an extra attacker, but 7 seconds after he left the net Mississippi's Justin MacDonald took a fortuitous bounce off the boards and down the ice into the empty net for the final 6-3 score.
The Ice Bears and RiverKings will rematch Friday, March 30 in Mississippi. Join Knoxville Ice Bears fans at Buffalo Wild Wings at Turkey Creek to watch the game broadcast live. Puck drops at 8 p.m. If the Ice Bears win, the two teams will return to Knoxville on Sunday at 5 pm for a winner take all game to move into the semi-finals.
Mercedes-Benz 3 Stars of the game:
1st Star: Justin Topilko (Mississippi)
2nd Star: Darrell Stoddard (Mississippi)
3rd Star: Emery Olauson (Knoxville)