Thunderbirds Take Game 1 in Dominant Fashion
By Zak DeBeaussaert
Winston-Salem, NC - The Carolina Thunderbirds took Game 1 of the 2019 Commissioner's Cup Finals behind great play from Michael Bunn and newly returned Beau Walker to defeat the Elmira Enforcers, 7-3.
Bunn opened the scoring at 2:15 into the first period when he went down the right wing side and buried a shot far side past Troy Passingham. The early goal seemed to settle the two teams because it would take over ten minutes before anyone would find the back of the net again. Walker got himself back in the goal column on a shot from a give-and-go play with Jan Salak. His tally would be matched about two minutes later by Karel Drahorad with a one-timer in the slot, again set up by Salak. Facing a 3-0 deficit heading into the locker room, Kyle Stevens answered back for Elmira with a shot off a rebound given up by Christian Pavlas at 18:52.
The second period was literally more of the same, as Carolina scored three more and Elmira would answer back with one. Walker and Bunn each got their second of the night, and Jiri Pestuka tapped in his first of the postseason to make it 6-1. The Enforcers goal came from Sean Reynolds, who after being denied on a wrap-around, chipped one over the blocker hand of Pavlas.
While the game might have seemed in hand at this point, both teams came out in the third with something to prove. Tensions rose and messages were sent ahead of Game 2. Josh Pietrantonio spun in the slot and flung one past Passingham at 6:03, and JT Walters would answer back just 50 seconds later for Elmira to give the game its final score of 7-3.
Christian Pavlas stopped 26 of 29 shots in the win, his third of this postseason. Troy Passingham takes his first loss of the postseason, stopping 34 of 41 shots, with Nick Niedert stopping all 6 he saw in relief.
Both team square off at the Annex again tomorrow for Game 2 with a 6:05 PM puck drop.
3 Stars of the Game:
Photo credit: V. Khouri