Carolina Claims First Commissioner's Cup

by Jon Kliment

The Enforcers entered game four off a 7-2 victory on Friday night, but knowing they were still a long way off a championship as they trailed the series 2-1. Elmira had come out very strong on Friday and needed to find a way to replicate the effort tonight.

The first period saw the Thunderbirds come out looking like the same team we saw in game one and game two as they peppered netminder Nick Niedert with shots. Carolina fired twelve shots on the Enforcers netminder and at 5:46 of the period Beau Walker was able to deflect one off his skate blade past Niedert to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead. The Enforcers only managed two shots on goal in the first and had a big whole to climb out of.

Elmira woke up in the second however and pushed the pace. When they were given a power play at :30 of the second it took almost the entire two minutes, but Brandon Vuic found Kyle Stevens in front of the net and he tapped one by Christian Pavlas. 3:23 later Mitch Atkins scored another Enforcers goal as Nathan Pelligra sped down the near side boards sent a pass across the netmouth to Mitch Atkins who flipped it over Pavlas’ outstretched body to give Elmira their first lead of the night. Though the shots continued to be skewed in favor of Carolina 27-11 the Enforcers went to the room with the advantage that counted 2-1.

As predicted the Thunderbirds came out with speed and effort and put one by Niedert just :14 into the third period to tie the game. 10:04 later Petr Panacek scored on a power play as the Enforcers allowed a goal on their penalty kill for the second time this series. Trailing by one late Elmira pushed the puck into the zone and Pelligra went to work pushing the puck behind Pavlas to tie it up at 15:21. The rest of the period saw no scoring, but a late penalty set up another Enforcers penalty kill as they headed to the overtime period.

The overtime lasted exactly :35 as Jan Salak shoved a rebound by Niedert to secure the Carolina Thunderbirds first ever Commissioner’s Cup. Michael Bunn won the playoff MVP and the team from Carolina skated a victory lap around First Arena.