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Bulls drop wild game to Tampa Spartans

USF and Tampa played a wild one in Wesley Chapel on Friday night. USF Hockey/Xoe Bergman

WESLEY CHAPEL — If you like high-scoring hockey games, odds are you’ll like the scoreline USF and the Tampa Spartans put up Friday night at AdventHealth Center Ice.

The highlight of the night was the second period, where the teams put up a combined five goals — including four in the first three minutes — in the Spartans’ 6-5 win.

Perhaps the most improbable thing from the third edition of the “Battle of the Bay” this season is how things started out for USF: Pretty terrible.

Yet, somehow, the Bulls were never truly out of things.

Just 1:40 into the game, Tampa drew first blood after Drew Bobynskyi hammered home a rebound that got away from USF goaltender Samuel Coleman.

Then it drew second — and eventually third — blood with goals at the 10:48 and 12:25 marks. In a relative blink of the eye, it was 3-0 Spartans.

USF called timeout following the third goal, and seemed to be better from that point, scoring five of the game’s final eight goals, including its first of the night with 28 seconds remaining in the first period.

“We basically just kind of said, ‘We’ve got to settle down, just play our game, minimize mistakes, and it kind of got the boys a little fired up,'” forward Alex Rhoads said. “It was a good response. Just got to jump on them and get us up 3-0 early tomorrow.”

But it was too little too late, as, despite effectively matching the Spartans blow for blow — especially in the second period, where the Bulls outscored Tampa 3-2 — the closest USF got was within one following a power-play goal by Rhoads at the 11:54 mark of the second period — incidentally the last goal in that five-goal period. USF also cut what became a two-goal deficit in the third period to one thanks to a goal by Michael Alfaro at the 11:22 mark.

“We had a lot of bad bounces. We didn’t do ourselves any favors,” forward Andrew Miranda said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. Had some bad turnovers, some bad bounces, some bad breakdowns that led to goals that they just capitalized on. I don’t think they outplayed us. They just got a little bit more lucky than us.”

Bad bounces might be putting it lightly. Tampa’s fifth goal of the night came off a wild rebound on the end boards. The Spartans’ Alex Morawski dumped the puck in from the blue line, it bounced off the dasher and somehow deflected behind Coleman and into the net.

When there weren’t goals being scored,  things were incredibly chippy between the two Tampa-based teams. The two teams combined for 22 penalty minutes — including two incidental roughing penalties in the second period — and could have easily been called for more considering the nature of some of the hits.

But it’s to be expected when these two teams meet — and meet again they will Saturday at 9 p.m. at AdventHealth Center Ice.

“We’ve got to bring it, because they always bring it,” Rhoads said. “We’ve got to match everything they’re doing, if not a little bit more. It’s always a scrappy game every time we play them.”