(HUNTSVILLE) - The last-place Huntsville Havoc kept their fading playoff hopes alive, snapping a 5-game losing streak, Thursday night at the Von Braun Center with a determined 6-3 win over the 1st place Knoxville Ice Bears before 3,446 fans.
The Havoc (22-26-2) are now one point out of a playoff spot with two games left in the regular season.
Sixth-place Twin City also has two games remaining. They play Jacksonville tonight and Richmond on Saturday, but Huntsville has the tougher task of facing Knoxville again on the road if they can get by 5th-place Columbus, Friday night.
Beau McLaughlin led the Havoc with two goals and an assist, the second of those shorthanded to give the Havoc a 4-2 lead in the 2nd period.
The Ice Bears (31-16-4) needed a point to wrap up the Coffey Trophy, emblematic of regular-season superiority, but they didn't look the part. They were repeatedly burned by odd-man rushes, sloppy play, and defensive lapses.
Rookie goalie Kirk Irving stopped 24 of 29 shots.
Knoxville did get off on the right skate. On a 2-on-1 break, Mike Carter tapped in a pass from Matt Pierce along the boards at 2:37 for a 1-0 lead. They later tied the game, 2-2, in the 2nd period on a power play goal at 1:02 as Kevin Harris streaked in from the point, taking a feed from behind the goal by Kevin Swider.
But it was all downhill for Knoxville for most of the game. Swider and teammate Tim Vitek inadvertently collided in Huntsville's end with the teams skating 4-on-4.
The Havoc cashed in.
On a 3-on-1, McLaughlin tied the game at one, ripping a 25-footer under the crossbar. Then another mistake.
Defenseman Paul Lynch tried to hammer the puck in deep, but his attempt was blocked in the neutral zone and Huntsville sped away 3-on-2. Edan Welch scored his 18th giving the Havoc two goals in 2:10.
Josh Weibel put a soft backhander from a bad angle past Irving with a defenseman harassing him to put Huntsville up 3-2.
The sloppy play continued as Harris lost possession at the blue line, allowing McLaughlin to take off on a 2-on-1 with Craig Bushey. McLaughlin scored his 15th from 10 feet to make it 4-2 Havoc.
Swider closed their lead to 4-3 at 10:12 of the 3rd period, but goalie Matt Carmichael stopped 11 of 12 shots that period.
Jeff Valdes and James Patterson also found the back of the net for Huntsville in the final period. Craig Bushey recorded two assists.
Carmichael was sharp. The former playoff MVP robbed Corey Rutt in the 2nd period - his best save - and rejected 35 of 38 shots.