By Dave Link, Knoxville News Sentinel
The Knoxville Ice Bears got a reminder Saturday night that every team in the Southern Professional Hockey League can be dangerous.
Jeff Topilko's goal with 28 seconds left in the third period lifted the Mississippi RiverKings to a 3-2 victory against the Ice Bears in front of 3,517 fans at Civic Coliseum.
Knoxville entered the game tied for second in the SPHL standings, while the RiverKings were seventh. In the first round of the SPHL playoffs, the No. 2 seed plays the No. 7 seed.
"They're a potential first-round opponent for us," Topilko said. "It's big for our confidence to know that we can win here because we're going to have to win a game here if we're going to win the series against them and move forward in the playoffs."
The Ice Bears finish the regular season with three games next weekend — at home against Columbus on Thursday, at Augusta on Friday, and at home against Fayetteville on Saturday.
"Those are the type of hockey games at this time of year that teams have to find a way to win," Ice Bears coach Mike Craigen said. "I'd rather lose one now than lose a couple of weeks from now (in the playoffs). Hopefully we can learn something from that. Our lesson tonight was make sure you put teams away early and don't let them hang around."