Enforcers Punch Their Ticket To Ignite Cup Final With 7-6 OT Loss
by Jonathan Kliment
The Enforcers entered into Friday night's game having dropped the final two of their four-in-four against the Port Huron Prowlers on the road last week. With this being the final weekend of the regular season, Elmira came in needing just one point to clinch themselves a berth into the Ignite Cup Final. Adding some big pieces to the lineup prior to puck drop only strengthened the Enforcers vibe.
3:35 into the game, the Thunderbirds forced the rubber to the front of the goal after TroPassingham couldn't hold the initial shot, Josh Koepplinger skated in and blasted it home to give Carolina an early 1-0 lead. Elmira wasn't going to sit back quietly however as they struck next. A little over three minutes later Brandon Tucker force-fed a puck to a waiting Ryan Marker who strolled in and deposited one by Chris Paulin to make the game a one-all tie. Stepan Timofeyev took matters in to his own hands to give the Enforcers their first advantage of the game just about sixty seconds later. He deeked out not one, not two, but three defenders and the netminder to flip one to make the score 2-1 in favor of Elmira.
Ryan Marker scooped the puck off the boards in the corner to Paulin's left, launched one out to Tyler Gjurich who blazed a slapshot in from the slot to stretch the advantage to 3-1 in favor of the Enforcers with a little over 8 minutes to play in the first frame. With 4:51 left and Elmira on the man advantage, a bad turnover in the defensive end resulting in a beauty pass from Zach White to Petr Panacek into the back of Passingham's cage, as the board now read just 3-2 Elmira.
The second frame went on with a pair of goose-eggs registering on the board for both sides, so the 3-2 Elmira lead carried over into the third period.
The third period was a back and forth affair. Jon Buttitta got everything started just 5:42 into even the game 3-3, and Tyler Gjurich took a bounce pass from Glen Patterson to the back of Paulin's cage to the house to put Elmira back on top 4-3. The former Enforcer Everett Thompson had a grand return to First Arena when on a break in to the offensive end he received a pass and wristed one low and by Passingham to again tie the game again 4-4.
Brett Gravelle and Carter Shinkaruk lit the lamp just two minutes apart to push Elmira back out to a comfortable 6-4 lead with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. Needing points to stay alive and fight another day, Carolina didn't give up. David Brancik fed Jiri Pestuka in the far circle as the sharp shooter pulled the game within 1 on the man advantage, 6-5. With just :20 to go in regulation, Fred Hein on an odd play was able to skip one to the back of the goal to again settle the score back to a 6-6 tie.
Overtime began and ended quickly. Tommy Tsicos took a pass from Josh Koepplinger and sent the rubber five-hole on Passingham to vault Carolina to a 7-6 overtime loss just :25 into the five minute period.
Troy Passingham stopped 41 of 48 in the extra time loss.
Elmira and Carolina square off on First Arena ice for the second of three matchups to close out the 2021 regular season tomorrow at 7:05. Grab your tickets now by stopping on down to the box office or calling (607) 734-PUCK or watch/listen live on YouTube and Mixlr.