Enforcers Fall In Showcase Finale, 5-4

by Jon Kliment

After seeing tensions flare, and emotions rise in Game 2 of the Empire State Showcase on Saturday night at First Arena - the two teams returned to the building for the weekend finale this afternoon. Each coach had the chance to evaluate their roster one last time, and being as this weekend was just exhibition action... both sides rosters looked a little bit differently today.

In the opening period of the play, the Watertown Wolves scored the first goal of the game just as they did in the showcase's first two matchups. With 10:01 gone in the frame, Brady Heppner fired one past Trevor Babin to make it a 1-0 Wolves score. 

Watertown's top line combo added two goals to the board in just the first 4:20 following the break, but the Enforcers rebounded with 2 goals of their own not long after. Tyler Gjurich connected with Brandon Tucker who was sitting net front to the right of Cody Porter's cage and slid it by to cut the deficit to 3-1. With 7:16 to go prior to the final intermission of the weekend, JT Walters grabbed possession of the puck after a careem off the boards, and gave it off to Kyler Matthews and his wicked slap shot found the goal as Elmira now trailed just 3-2. 

 Tanner Hildebrandt picked up a rebound and put it in to stretch the Watertown lead back to 2 goals, 4-2. Bryce Martin and Carson Vance had a sweet looking give and go with 8:50 to go in regulation which led to an Evgenii Demin shot that trickled by Cody Porter as it was now just a 4-3 game. That wouldn't be it however as with 3:03 left in the game, Stepan Timofeyev bolted in to the offensive end and flew to the goal, coming up with a backhander to tie the score, 4-4. 

A 3-on-3 overtime period that saw a Wolves power play thanks to a Timofeyev roughing minor, wasn't enough to decide the afternoon and the game headed into a shootout. Josh Koepplinger and Ryan Marker each scored for Watertown in Rounds 3 and 4, respectively, while Tyler Gjurich lit the lamp in both rounds as well for the home side. The skills competition continued until Round 7 when it was Koepplinger who was once again able to beat out Babin as Porter's denial of Gjurich sealed the deal for a 5-4 Wolves win. 

Trevor Babin stopped 45 of 49 shots faced, and saved 4 of 7 in the shootout loss. 

The Enforcers kick off the regular season up at Watertown Municipal Arena on Wednesday afternoon against the Wolves for a 1pm puck drop. No fans may currently be allowed in attendance, but don't forget you can still watch along on YouTube or listen in on Mixlr! Go Enforcers Go!