River Dragons Down Enforcers 5-1 In Weekend Opener

by Jonathan Kliment

The Enforcers fresh off an impressive 4-2 victory over the rival Carolina Thunderbirds hopped the bus and headed to Georgia. Tonight Elmira and the Columbus River Dragons kicked off a three game in three day series down at the Columbus Civic Center. This weekend will roll the season series to a close after the two sides split a pair of shootout affairs at First Arena just over three weeks ago. 

With bus legs and all, the first period sure didn't start the way the visitors would have hoped for. Just 2:27 into the contest, the puck was forced out from just beyond the back side of the Enforcers cage by Vojtech Zemlicka to Jay Croop who waltzed in and put a no doubter by Troy Passingham to put the River Dragons out to an early 1-0 lead. Down but never out, the Enforcers battled back finding the scoreboard for the first time with 9:20 to go in the 1st. With the power play just having worn down, the push was still there as shown by Alexis Girard's sling pass through traffic to Brett Gravelle just a few feet from the left post of Jared Rutledge's net. Gravelle didn't skip a beat after adding the game winner on Wednesday, flicking a forehand shot by Rutledge to knot the game at 1 all. 

Columbus wasn't content in that spot however, as with just 7 minutes remaining until the first break of the evening on the man advantage - they jumped back on top. Matt O'Dea and Ivan Bondarenko played a little give and go after picking up a fumbled puck in the offensive end, and it was Bondarenko who forced it ahead to a speedy Jay Croop who wristed the rubber top shelf into the Elmira goal to put the River Dragons back on top 2-1. 

Beginning the second period on the man advantage, Columbus was able to add yet another as Vojtech Zemlicka snagged the puck off the right wing boards and fired it back to the blue line to Mac Jansen. Jansen spiraled a drop pass to the front of the goal where Jake Schultz put in to make the score 3-1 in favor of the Georgia boy just :27 in. Despite generating quite a few offensive chances, the Enforcers struggled to find the back of the net and Columbus added another with 2:38 left in the frame. Matt O'Dea recovered the puck in the neutral zone and drove a pass forward to Nate O'Brian who let it go, stretching the advantage to 4-1 after 40 minutes.  

Just as they did in the 2nd, the River Dragons came out with a fast goal in the 3rd period. After a faceoff win to Passingham's left and an odd angle pass from Gehrett Sergis, Chase Fallis let a shot slide it's way in to the net pulling the Columbus lead to 4, 5-1. The Enforcers gripped and clawed, but couldn't get another by Rutledge, and the 5-1 score held as the final.

Troy Passingham turned away 40 of 45 shots.

Elmira and Columbus are back at it from the Columbus Civic Center for game two of the three game weekend series tomorrow night at 6:35pm. Catch all the action on Mixlr and YouTube.