by Brett Wiseman

Winston-Salem, NC, - In a thrilling Game 2 of the Continental Division Semifinal between the Carolina Thunderbirds and Port Huron Prowlers in front of a raucous crowd of 2, 784 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex, a full 60 minutes of playoff hockey were not enough to decide whether one team's season would continue or end. 

Dawson Baker answered any and all remaining questions four minutes and 37 seconds into the first overtime.

Joe Kennedy turned the puck over in the defensive zone on a poke check, and saucered a pass ahead for Gus Ford. Ford delayed crossing the attacking blue line, and centered a pass to Baker right on the tape of his stick. Baker sniped home a wrist shot into the back of the net, sent the Annex into a frenzy and sent the Thunderbirds to the second round.

Baker earned first star honors for his game and series winning goal, as well as his goal in the second period that put the Thunderbirds ahead 2-1.

Jan Salak earned second star honors with two goals. His first was an equalizer, 82 seconds into the second period to knot the game at 1. He then followed Baker's middle frame marker with another of his own on the power play just 34 seconds into the third period to give the Thunderbirds a 3-1 advantage. 

A resilient Port Huron group responded, in the form of a natural hat trick from Tucker Scantlebury. Scantlebury's first came just 12 seconds after Salak's goal. 12 seconds after Scantelbury's marker, he added another, which capped a wild sequence that saw 3 goals combined from both teams in just the first 58 seconds of the third period. Scantlebury completed his natural hat trick with under 8 minutes to go in regulation.

Petr Panacek was clutch yet again, following up a game 1 hat trick with a game-tying goal with under two minutes remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

The Thunderbirds will now meet the archrival Columbus River Dragons in the Continental Division Final. Columbus will host game 1 as the lower seed. Carolina will host game 2 and an if necessary game 3. Dates and start times will be announced soon.


Binghamton Advances to Semi-Final Round

by Brooks Hill

Binghamton, NY - The Binghamton Black Bears advanced to the semi-final round of the Commissioner’s Cup Playoffs with a 6-1 victory over the Watertown Wolves. The Black Bears become the first team since the 2011 Calder Cup Champion Binghamton Senators to win a playoff series. 

Binghamton started the scoring in the first period with a power play goal from Chad Lopez at the 7:26 mark. The Black Bears were able to extend their lead with Tyler Gjurich’s first goal of the playoffs. Binghamton led 2-0 at the first intermission. 

Colan Fitzgerald, a secret weapon of last year’s playoffs, delivered the third tally of the night. Fitzgerald was able to out-wait the goaltender for a beautiful backhand goal. At the 3-0 deficit, Watertown did finally get on the board. Brennan Young scored the only goal of the night for the Wolves on a partial takeaway. However, Lopez would hammer a one-timer in the final 15 seconds of the period. Binghamton led 4-1 after 40 minutes. 

Binghamton continued to pour it on in the final period, as the Black Bears put two more goals in the net. Don Olivier scored his first goal of the playoffs. Gavin Yates would follow a minute later. Talor Joseph shut the door, stopping 24 of 25. Binghamton wins and eliminates the defending champion Watertown Wolves 6-1. 

The Black Bears are the first pro-hockey team in Binghamton to win a playoff series since the Binghamton Senators did so to win the Calder Cup (AHL). 

Binghamton will turn their eyes to Danbury for the Empire Division Championship. Game one will be Friday night in Binghamton, at 7:00P.M. 



by Chris Lynch

Danbury, CT - The Danbury Hat Tricks secured a series sweep of the Elmira Mammoth behind a 7-1 wipeout win on home ice. The full house at the Danbury Ice Arena enjoyed the Hat Tricks’ offense powered for a second consecutive night by Lucas DeBenedet and Michael Marchesan, who recorded two goals and an assist for three points each to run their postseason scoring totals to seven points in two playoff games. 

Elmira opened the scoring, mirroring Friday’s game, with Joshua Sanchez doing the honors 2:31 into the night. But after that goal, Danbury tilted the ice in their favor and never let the Mammoth back into the game. DeBenedet got his two goals in the opener, the first to tie the game on a power play four minutes in and the second to extend the lead off a Michael Marchesan feed at the 12:44 mark. Jacob Ratcliffe gave Danbury the lead for good on another power play, one of three extra strength goals the Hat Tricks tallied. 

Jonny Ruiz added an unassisted goal to end the first period scoring at 4-1. 

Michael Marchesan scored his two goals in the second and Dmitry Kuznetsov added one more score to end the tally at 7-1 before the second intermission. Danbury outshot Elmira 15-9 in the final stanza but got no goals through Harley White, who stopped 22 of 23 shots who came on in relief after Thomas Proudlock stopped 28 of 34 shots faced through Marchesan’s second goal at the 8:40 mark of the 2nd.

Daniel Amesbury and Justin Schmidt dropped the mitts twice for two of the best fights of the season. 

The Elmira Mammoth conclude their inaugural season with a postseason appearance. 

The Danbury Hat Tricks claim their second postseason win in franchise history after beating Binghamton in the 2022 postseason. 

With the sweep, the Hat Tricks move on to the Empire Division Finals against the Binghamton Black Bears. Game One is at Visions Veterans Memorial Arena on Friday night while Games Two and Three move to the Danbury Ice Arena on Saturday and Monday if necessary.