Niedert and Vuic Lead Enforcers to Dominant Victory
By Jonathan Kliment
Elmira, NY - The Elmira Enforcers had their backs pushed to the wall and were down 2-0 in the Commissioner's Cup Finals. If that wasn't enough of a hurdle to overcome, they were also without Ahmed Mahfouz, Troy Passingham, and Head Coach Brent Clarke. Friday night was a must-win game, and they proved there's still life in this series with a decisive 7-2 win over the Carolina Thunderbirds in front of 3,699 at First Arena.
Elmira wasted no time getting things going as Sean Reynolds sat in the slot and took a feed from Gavin Yates to bury one by Christian Pavlas just 58 seconds into the game. Beau Walker tied things up at 3:14, but Kyle Stevens smashed home a Dmytro Babenko rebound just at 4:49 to put the Enforcers back on top. Two Carolina penalties allowed Stepan Timofeyev to go top shelf on Pavlas at 9:31, and Brandon Vuic scored his fifth of the post season just over a minute later. Tom Tracy capped off the scoring in the first with an even strength goal when Vuic fired one at the Carolina netminder who kicked the rebound right to Tracy’s waiting stick. Shots on goal favored the Enforcers after one, 16-7.
The second period saw Elmira develop a much more defensive posture, as they pushed the Thunderbirds back further and further into their defensive zone. Though the shots on goal evened out at 23 apiece, the Enforcers executed the game plan that eluded them in Game 2. Elmira went to the locker room with their 5-1 lead intact, but knowing it would take a full 20 minutes more to keep their championship dreams alive.
The Enforcers came into the third period knowing they couldn’t sleep on this dangerous Carolina team. Brendan Hussey netted a goal just 1:23 into the period after a pass slipped through the defenseman’s legs and Hussey buried it five-hole on Pavlas. Jan Salak was finally able to solve Nick Niedert again when he snuck one by the Elmira netminder to bring Carolina back to within 4. However, just 36 later, Vuic got pulled down and was awarded a penalty shot which gave him a one-on-one with Pavlas. He buried the puck five-hole to give the Enforcers a final tally and a 7-2 victory in Game 3.
Niedert had 42 saves on 44 shots and claimed 1st Star of the Game on a night when Elmira earned their first championship round win since May 1st, 2002.
Game 4 of the Commissioner's Cup Finals is tomorrow night at 7:05 PM as Elmira looks to send the series back to Winston-Salem for a decisive Game 5. Get your tickets now by calling (607) 734-PUCK (7825).
Photo credit: Delta Imaging