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.



by Zak DeBeaussaert

Columbus, GA - The Columbus River Dragons are Ignite Cup Playoffs bound after a 3-1 win over the Port Huron Prowlers on Friday night.

Port Huron opened the scoring late in the first period when River Dragon loanee Yianni Liarakos sent a backdoor pass perfectly on the stick of Thomas Munichiello for the game's opening goal at the 14:23 mark of the first period.

That goal stood up through the opening 20 minutes, but then Columbus tied it back in the second period with a snipe from CJ Stubbs after he was left alone in the slot by the Port Huron defense. With just over 15 minutes to go in the 2nd, the game was 1-1 and it stayed that way heading into the locker room again.

In the third period, shots were flying in on both netminders in excess with both Jared Rutledge and Kurt Gutting putting on a clinic. It took 9:38 into the third period for the deadlock to be broken by Nate O'Brien who's one-timer was stopped partially by Gutting but leaked into the net for what would be the eventual game-winning goal.

Josh Pietrantonio batted one out of the air from under the crossbar with about four minutes left to go in the game to give the game its final scoreline of 3-1.

With their three points tonight and Carolina winning in overtime over Elmira, the River Dragons are now in control of the race to the #1 seed by percentage points over Elmira who the River Dragons will play in the finals after this weekend.

Jared Rutledge gets his FPHL-leading 8th win of the season stopping 36 of 37 shots in this game. Kurt Gutting took the loss after a 38 save effort on 41 shots.

The same two teams go at it again on Saturday night with a 6:35 puck drop at the Civic Center. Tickets available at the Civic Center Box Office or on TicketMaster.

Three Stars of the Game

Jared Rutledge

Nate O'Brien

Austin Daae