Dramatic Overtime Win Gives Carolina 2-0 Series Lead

By Zak DeBeaussaert 

Winston-Salem, NC - It took 77 minutes and a referee talking to a goal judge, but at the end of it all the Carolina Thunderbirds won on Saturday night over the Elmira Enforcers, 4-3 and have taken a 2-0 series lead.

Elmira jumped out to the lead in the first period through Brandon Vuic who bore down on a two-on-one alongside Ahmed Mahfouz. Vuic used his captain as bait and rocketed one five-hole on Christian Pavlas to make it 1-0, Enforcers. 

That scoreline would hold to the second period when Elmira would pick up where they left off, returning to the ice with Gavin Yates scoring at the 4:11 mark on a beautiful overlap play that left Pavlas out of position and helpless. The Enforcers weren't satisfied with a two-goal lead though, and Vuic got his second of the night just 44 seconds later. Carolina found themselves in a rare three-goal deficit but when the switch flipped on in the latter stages of the period, the Thunderbirds tied the game in just a 77 second span. First it was a cycle play on the left wing that left Karel Drahorad all alone in the slot and he pinged the top left corner with 1:32 left in the frame. 22 seconds later Petr Panacek lasered one into the top right corner to make it a one-goal hockey game. The Thunderbirds weren't done though, and Beau Walker slapped a shot from the center point for Josh Pietrantonio to put in a beauty of a backdoor deflection for a tie game.

While not showing anything on the scoresheet, the third period was filled with high tension and drama that set up for a memorable overtime period.

There were three power play opportunities in OT, two for Carolina and one for Elmira, but all were killed off. Then at the 17:20 mark Michael Bunn took a layoff pass from Ray Boudiette in the slot and shot high on Troy Passingham. The puck hopped into the air and rested on the netminder's back and shoulder, and as he fell back into the crease the puck crossed the line to give Carolina a 2-0 lead in the Commissioner's Cup Finals. The decision was heavily protested by the Enforcers, but after a goal judge consultation the goal stood.

Christian Pavlas got his fourth win of the postseason, stopping 23 of 26 shots. Troy Passingham took the loss, stopping 70 of 74 shots.

Carolina looks for the sweep of Elmira with Game 3 of the Finals being played at First Arena on Friday.

3 Stars of the Game:
Michael Bunn
Josh Pietrantonio
Chase Fallis

Attendance: 2,681

Photo credit: V. Khouri