By Thomas Pope, Fayetteville Observer
Andrew Smale was in a hurry to strip off his gear, grab a shower, and hit the road.
And even though that meant a 15-hour overnight drive to Bowmanville, Ontario, Smale and the rest of his Fayetteville FireAntz teammates have plenty of good things to think about during their Christmas break.
Smale, a defenseman, scored a goal and helped keep clear sight lines for goalie Marco Emond, who recorded his second shutout of Pensacola in 24 hours. The FireAntz won 5-0 on Saturday night, strengthening their hold on first place in the Southern Professional Hockey League and widening the gap over the second-place Ice Flyers to six points.
"Anytime you get back-to-back shutouts it's good," said Smale, who will spend Christmas at home for the first time in seven pro seasons. "Especially against a team like that, a team that's chasing us, and make a statement.
"Anytime you have Marco in net, you have a chance to win. It wasn't just the defensemen doing the job, it was team defense with the forwards helping out, and us only giving up one shot. That was our biggest flaw up until this point. We'd give up a shot, then they'd get two or three whacks at it. This weekend, we limited them to one shot, cleared the puck and took care of business."
Friday night's game was a 1-0 nail biter until an empty-net goal in the final minute. It wasn't that close, or as intense, Saturday night, as the FireAntz (16-5-0) struck early and often.