Enforcers Stave Off Elimination; Force Game 4 Saturday
Elmira, NY - The Carolina Thunderbirds had a first period to forget on Friday night and it ultimately did them in as they drop game 3 of the Commissioner's Cup final 7-2.
The Enforcers jumped on the board early with a goal 58 seconds into the game from Sean Reynolds. The crowd's energy would turn from electric to ecstatic with the early tally and the Thunderbirds then went to work, setting up a 3-on-2 play with Drahorad feeding Pietrantonio and then putting it into the slot where a wide-open Beau Walker tapped it through the 5-hole of Nick Niedert for a goal about two minutes later.
Elmira would answer right back though after a turnover behind the net left Kyle Stevens all alone in front of Christian Pavlas and he buried it first-time to restore the energy and more importantly the Enforcers lead.
After the 2-1 Enforcers lead Michael Bunn would be assessed a major penalty via a linesman for slew-footing. This combined with a Pietrantonio cross-checking minor early in the penalty kill would give Elmira a full 2-minute 5-on-3. They would not need the full time Stepan Timofeyev firing one clean to the glove side on Pavlas to make it a 3-1 game.
At that point Pietrantonio was free but Bunn still had a significant amount of time to serve on the major, and Elmira again would capitalize through Brandon Vuic 1:22 later banging home a rebound on the left post.
The scoring wasn't done though as Elmira would find one more goal on a 2-on-1. Vuic rushing the right wing laid a perfect pad pass off to Tom Tracy who slid it into an open net and the score after 20 minutes was 5-1 Enforcers.
A scoreless second period saw Carolina hold a 16-7 advantage in shots but unfortunately they were unable to solve Nick Niedert.
Then in the third, Elmira again jumped out with an early goal, this time Brendan Hussey who went 5-hole 1:23 into the third.
Carolina would show some resolve and find a goal with Jan Salak reaching up in the slot and pulling a puck out of the air laying it on the ice and in one fell swoop lifting it to the top right corner for a 6-2 game.
Any momentum the Thunderbirds had though would be wiped out on a penalty shot call that allowed Brandon Vuic a free shot at net. Vuic scored 36 seconds later and gave the game its final score.
Nick Niedert played phenomenally in the win stopping 42 of 44 shots. Christian Pavlas takes his first loss of the playoffs, he stopped 22 of 29 shots.
Same two teams go at it on Saturday night with Carolina still maintaining a 2-1 series lead. Puck drop is at 7:05
Three Stars of the Game