Playoffs Game Recaps 4/27/24


Black Bears Advance to the Finals

by Brooks Hill

Binghamton, NY- The Binghamton Black Bears advanced to the FPHL finals, defeating the Motor City Rockers 3-2 in OT. Austin Thompson scored the game-winning goal five minutes into the overtime period, sending the Black Bears to their first ever Commissioners Cup Final. 

Binghamton started scoring in the first period. Josh Fletcher recorded his first of the postseason, and it was followed-up by Connor Smith extending the lead to 2-0. The crowd of 4,200+ was on their feet cheering for the hometown team. The Rockers were able to get on the board late in the period. Declan Conway scored a tip-in goal, putting the visitors on the board. At the end of one, Binghamton led 2-1. 

Neither side was able to score in the middle period. The goaltenders shined in a period where shots were even at 12-12. Coast-to-coast action was highlighted by sprawling says from Connor McAnanama and Trevor Babin. The score after two periods was the same after the first. 

In the third, tempers flared, seeing multiple players from both teams getting misconducts. The Black Bears were unable to find the insurance goal that they were looking for. Time was running out, and Motor City pulled the goalie for the extra attacker. 

Heartbreak happened, as Motor City tied the game with just six seconds left. For the first time this season, the Black Bears were headed to overtime. 

Both teams has chances, but it was Austin Thompson who scored the game winning goal, five minutes into the extra frame. Binghamton wins 3-2 in overtime and advance to the cup finals. 

They will await their opponent, and announce the final series of the season at a later date. 

Rockers Season Ends With 3-2 OT Loss In Empire Division Championship

by Ben Szilagy

Binghamton, NY - The Motor City Rockers’ season has come to an end.

The 2023-24 campaign was successful by every measure: 33 Regular Season wins, beating last year’s total, earned the franchise’s first playoff series win against the defending FPHL Champions in Danbury and having a record setting crowd at Big Boy Arena on the final home game where 2,123 fans attended a win.

Unfortunately in Game 2 of the FPHL Empire Division Championship, the Rockers couldn’t force Game 3 after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Black Bears.

With the season on the line late in the third period, Motor City pulled Ricky Gonzalez who replaced Trevor Babin midway in the third period, for an extra attacker with 1:44 to play. 

The Rockers desperately tried to get the game tying goal when the puck was swung from Declan Conway to the point and on the stick of Nick Magill-Diaz. Magill-Diaz fired a shot that was deflected by TJ Sneath for the game tying goal with 5.4 seconds left.

Binghamton’s Austin Thompson earned the game winner with 8:32 remaining in the game when he fired the puck from the corner and through the five-hole on an impossible angle for his first goal of the postseason. 

Binghamton did start the game with a lead in the first period with goals by Josh Fletcher and Connor Smith for a 2-0 lead until the Rockers were able to cut the deficit to one with 3:28 left in the opening frame.

Sneath entered the offensive zone and offered a drop pass to Lane King at the point. King then rifled a pass to the far side post to Declan Conway who tipped in the puck for a 2-1 score. It was his first of the postseason, and 23rd of the campaign.

King finished the postseason with a point in every game with his assist earning a goal, and six assists in five games. 

The Rockers also were perfect on the penalty kill in the postseason. Motor City killed 23-of-23 power plays it faced in the playoffs. It entered the playoffs with a 83.3 kill percentage which was second best in the league.


River Dragons Lose in OT


by Tom Callahan

Columbus, GA -  Jiri Pestuka scored at 15:04 of overtime to give the Carolina Thunderbirds a critical road victory and extend the Continental Division Final to a deciding Game Three on Sunday in Columbus at 6:05 pm.

Pestuka tipped home a centering feed from Nate Keeley just minutes after Mario Cavaliere made a diving glove stop on the goal line to extend the OT and keep Carolina alive. The goal was his first of the playoffs.

Gus Ford opened the scoring with a power play goal late in the first period to make it 1-0 Thunderbirds.

Despite being shorthanded five times in the second period, Columbus did not allow a goal against and the game remained 1-0 after 40 minutes of play.

In the third, the River Dragons finally found the scoresheet when Austin Daae’s point shot deflected into the net off the skate of Alex Storjohann for a power play goal at 3:18. Josh Pietrantonio followed with his first goal of the playoffs at 6:52 to put Columbus in front for the first time in the game.

Down the stretch the Thunderbirds would pull Cavaliere for the extra attacker, and Dawson Baker got loose in the slot, converting a feed from Ford to tie the game and send it past regulation.

Breandan Colgan made 37 saves in the loss for Columbus.


  • These two teams are no stranger to overtime games, with five of the ten regular season contests needing OT or a shootout to settle.
  • Columbus scored a power play goal for the fourth straight game.
  • The River Dragons were shorthanded six consecutive times during the game, including five penalties against in the second period. Columbus would kill all five off to keep the game 1-0 at the time.
  • Daae, Storjohann, Pietrantonio and Justin MacDonald all have four-game scoring streaks in progress.

The series-deciding Game Three will be played at 6:05 pm ET at the Columbus Civic Center. Tickets are on sale right now through the Civic Center Box Office and online at

Pestuka Forces Game Three Against Columbus in Overtime, 3-2

Jiri Pestuka tips home game-winner in overtime to keep season alive


by Brendan Reilly

Columbus, GA - After trailing for a majority of the 3rd period against the Columbus River Dragons, Dawson Baker tied Game Two of the Continental Division Final with 1:35 remaining in regulation before Jiri Pestuka deflected home the overtime winner at the 15:06 mark of the first overtime, giving Carolina a 3-2 victory in Game Two. 


Carolina struck first on the road in Columbus. On the power play, Gus Ford lifted a shot past Breandan Colgan with 1:14 remaining in the 1st to give Carolina 1-0 lead after one period.


After neither side could find the back of the net in the 2nd period, Columbus struck quickly to take a lead in the 3rd. Alex Storjohann and Josh Pietrantonio both scored within four minutes to give the River Dragons a 2-1 lead, putting the Thunderbirds on the brink of elimination. 


With two minutes to go in the 3rd period, Thunderbirds Head Coach Steve Harrison pulled netminder Mario Cavaliere for the extra attacker, and with 1:35 remaining in regulation, Ford found Baker alone in the slot snapping a shot past Colgan tying the game at two and forcing overtime. 


Despite being outshot and spending a majority of the overtime in its own zone, Carolina netminder Mario Cavaliere stopped all 12 shots he saw in the extra frame before Nate Keeley delivered a centering pass to Jiri Pestuka right on the doorstep, tapping home the game winner for Carolina and forcing a Game Three with the win, 3-2. 


Sunday marks the second straight year that Carolina and Columbus will play a deciding Game Three in the Continental Division Finals. 


Puck drop for Game Three is set for 6:05 p.m. from the Columbus Civic Center on Sunday evening.