by Dillon Clark
Watertown, NY – In a hard-fought Game 2 in Watertown, the Wolves hung on for a 3-1 lead against Carolina. With the win, they will meet the Columbus River Dragons in the 2022 Commissioner’s Cup Final.
The Thunderbirds entered the game having not won in Watertown since February of 2020. They dropped Game 1 in Winston-Salem after allowing four unanswered goals. Game 2 was a must-win for the Thunderbirds. Carolina held off the Wolves in the first period, limiting them to just 13 shots. Carolina managed 11 of their own in the first, but none that got past Watertown goaltender Adam Beukeboom. Despite good chances at both ends of the ice, Watertown and Carolina skated into the first intermission in a scoreless tie.
The Wolves looked to create some chaos in front of the net in the second period. They did, and were immediately rewarded. Michael Mercurio potted the rebound of a netfront scramble early in the period, scoring his first playoff goal for the 1-0 Watertown lead. The Thunderbirds held the game close over the course of the second period, and eventually found paydirt. After a Ryan Devine turnover in the defensive zone, Jacob Schnapp and Dawson Baker tapped pucks at Beukeboom’s pads. The rebound came loose to Gus Ford at the nearside goal post, and he flipped it over the outstretched goalie for the 1-1 tie. For the first time this season, Carolina entered the third period in Watertown with a tie game.
Carolina took one minor penalty in the entirety of Game 2. Early in the 3rd Jacob Schnapp was whistled for holding just inside the Thunderbirds’ end. On the ensuing powerplay, Ahmed Mahfouz slipped a puck around Nick Modica for the go-ahead goal. Carolina held Watertown to the outside for the rest of the period, while continuing to get chances on Beukeboom. Despite the effort, the Thunderbirds fell short. In the game’s last second, Justin MacDonald buried the empty net goal to seal the deal.
With the 3-1 victory, the Wolves advance to the Commissioner’s Cup Final against the Columbus River Dragons.