Carolina Clinches Regular Season Championship With Friday Win
Elmira, NY - The Carolina Thunderbirds will be the #1 seed in the FHL playoffs this year after a 4-1 victory over the Elmira Enforcers clinched the 2018-19 regular season championship.
Carolina opened the scoring with a great individual effort goal from Michael Bunn to deke past a defenseman and send Elmira goalie Troy Passingham the wrong way and slide it home into an empty net for a 1-0 lead.
The Thunderbirds would take that lead into the locker room but would find it erased by Elmira's Ahmed Mahfouz who scored on a power play in the slot through a lot of traffic to tie the game.
Carolina thought they had the lead back after a Ray Boudiette shot rang off the far post bounced off the backboards rolled on top of the net and fell on the goal line for a Petr Panacek tap-in goal. Panacek double tapped the puck and even though the referee pointed for a goal and Panacek's stick appeared to be fully in the net on the double tap the referee consulted with his crew and eventually waved the goal off.
Two different times during the second period scrums would ensue in the Carolina end involving in some way Christian Pavlas and both times teams skated 4-on-4. The most notable event of all the skirmishes was Mahfouz swinging high at Pavlas and Mike Baker and Stepan Timofeyev dropping the gloves behind the net.
The Thunderbirds would get the lead when Michael Bunn capitalized on a mistake behind the Elmira net that saw the puck on his feet and an easy tap-in despite Passingham trying to hustle back into the crease. Bunn's second of the night would go down as the eventual game winner but not after an extremely eventful third period.
Mahfouz would take a penalty nine seconds in to the period but Carolina would not capitalize, later Seth Gustin took a hooking minor and just as the penalty expired it appeared that Elmira had tied up the game on an Anton Lennartsson shot but even though it went 5-hole on Pavlas he squeezed the pads just in time to redirect it on the way out and it hit the base of the post and stayed out.
With 4:45 left in the third period Mahfouz and Baker got involved in a corner scrum that resulted in Mahfouz being hauled down and taking exception by ripping Baker's helmet off. The two jousted after the whistle and Mahfouz ended up yelling his way into an early shower with a 10-minute verbal abuse of officials misconduct.
Mahfouz's presence would be missed as Elmira would apply pressure but never look as lethal in the games dying moments.
After a timeout called by Elmira with about a minute and a half left allowed them to pull their netminder with an offensive zone forthcoming. Unfortunately for the Enforcers Chase Fallis won it and Mike Baker flipped it 200 feet into the open net to all but seal the game.
With 14 seconds left Peter Cicmanec scored off of a 2-on-1 with Petr Panacek to give the game its final score.
Christian Pavlas picked up the win stopping 33 of 34 shots in the victory. Troy Passingham took the loss stopping 40 of 43 shots on the night.
Carolina and Elmira go at it two more times this weekend from First Arena. Saturday's puck drop is at 7:05.
Three Stars of the Game, as chosen by Carolina broadcaster (unannounced in arena)