Gjurich Comes Through Again, Enforcers Win 4-3 in Shootout
After tallying points in all of the 2021 FPHL campaign’s first four games, the Elmira Enforcers returned to action tonight on First Arena ice for the fifth of their season opening six game homestand.
The Carolina Thunderbirds rolled into town to play their first game of the regular season with a roster looking very similar to the one that beat Elmira in 3 of 4 regular season meetings a season ago and saw them clinch the last Commissioner’s Cup to be handed out just shy of 2 calendar years ago.
The Enforcers received a boost as recently acquired Mitch Atkins drew into the lineup, and player/head coach Ahmed Mahfouz inserted himself into the fray, lacing up the skates for another night of action.
The first period saw both sides trade a handful of high quality scoring opportunities, but it just wasn’t enough to draw the board in this heated rivalry as the scoreboard read 0-0 after 20 minutes of action.
Period 2 started off with a boom however. JT Walters picked up a loose puck and fed it back to Brendan Hussey off on the right side just inside the blue line, as Hussey dumped a pass far side to Carson Vance who ripped one glove side on Zachary Quinn to vault Elmira off to a 1-0 lead just 6:07 into the frame. Next with just 6:28 before the final break horn sounded, Gino Mini recovered a turnover by the visitors in their own end, and slid the rubber up to Tyler Gjurich who streaked down the right with Brandon Tucker to his left. At the very last second, Gjurich hit Tucker in stride as Brandon was able to settle it in and by Quinn stretching the home side lead to 2-0. Coming courtesy of a little game of give and go under a minute later after an offensive faceoff win, Jon Buttitta gave a perfect hit pass opposite side to George Holt who sent it rocking behind Troy Passingham to settle it to a 2-1 Elmira lead after 40 minutes.
The Thunderbirds kicked off the 3rd period with a power play goal coming courtesy of a beauty of a sling pass from Josh Koepplinger to Ethan Busch-Anderson who buried it to knot the game at 2 apiece with under 13 left to play. Tyler Gjurich quickly rebounded with a goal for the Enforcers just :34 later to force the Enforcers back on top, 3-2. Carolina wouldn't see things end like that however as on a strong turn down ice Salak forced the puck to Koepplinger who barreled one on net to make it 3-3 which is how it'd stand through 60 minutes.
After a 5 minute OT affair that would see neither side score, the Enforcers set up for their third straight shootout match. Each side was denied by the opposition's goalie through the first three rounds, before Petr Panacek lit the lamp in Round 4. Passingham answered with 2 big stops in Rounds 5 and 6 as Gjurich managed to score in both, giving Elmira a 4-3 shootout victory and a pair of points in the standings.
Troy Passingham turned aside 55 of 58 shots, and stopped 5 of 6 in the shootout.
The Enforces will be back in action tomorrow night at 7:05 pm on WETM2 and Youtube tomorrow night against these same Thunderbirds.