(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) - Kevin Swider punctuated his 4th consecutive league scoring title with a 3rd-period hat trick as the Knoxville Ice Bears clinched their 3rd regular-season title in 4 years with a gritty 4-2 victory over the Huntsville Havoc on Saturday night in front of 4,653 rowdy fans.
The Havoc loss coupled with the Twin City Cyclones' 4-3 win over Richmond means the Havoc are eliminated from the playoffs by two points.
Swider, who wraps up the season with 38 goals and a league-leading 60 assists, likely wrapped up the SPHL's MVP.
James Patterson scored both goals for Huntsville, his first coming nine seconds into the 1st period. Swider then assisted on a goal by Tim Vitek at 6:58 that tied the game 1-1.
Patterson put the Havoc ahead 2-1 on a power play as the teams skated off for the 2nd intermission.
Swider, arguably finishing his best season, deflected defenseman Paul Lynch's slap shot from the point past goalie Matt Carmichael to tie the game, 2-2 with 14:25 to go. He took a cross-ice pass from Vitek at the side of the net to put the Ice Bears up 3-2 at 8:58 on a 5-on-3 power play, then tacked on an empty-netter on a pass from Jason Lepine from beyond center ice with :19 left.
Knoxville (32-16-4) will play the Columbus Cottonmouths in the first round of the President's Cup playoffs. The first two games of the best-of-five series will be in Knoxville on Friday and Saturday.
In a surprise move, first-year coach Scott Hillman started rookie Jordan Ramstead in goal instead of 19-game winner Kirk Irving. Ramstead, who was released and re-signed after Ervins Mustukovs left, played just his 5th game. He stopped 28 of 30 shots.
Matt Carmichael stopped 36 of 39. He finishes 17-14 on the year with an .887 save percentage, 9th among the 11 goalie leaders in the SPHL who qualified.
James Patterson finishes as the team's scoring leader with 27 goals and 35 assists.