The Elmira Enforcers took a trip out to Ohio Friday evening to take on the Mentor Ice Breakers at Mentor Civic Ice Arena. This would serve as the second meeting between these two teams as they previously met on December 8th. Elmira ended up walking away with an impressive 6-3 victory with Sean Reynolds leading the way by putting four points in the boxscore. Elmira is finally able to look down upon an opponent in the standings as Elmira enters play with a (6-9-0-2) record, and Mentor enters play with a (5-11-0-0) record. The Enforcers were forced to go into battle tonight without their team captain and second-leading scorer in Ahmed Mahfouz. If looking to come out on top, Elmira would need their goaltending to continue to remain steady, and for Sean Reynolds to step up as their goal scorer.
This game did not fail to get off to an interesting start when Mentor had a man in the sin-bin before the puck even hit the ice. Mentor was forced to serve a two-minute minor for wearing hats onto the ice for warmups rather than helmets. After a major collision that was questionably considered a hit-from-behind, Cam Yarwood was sent into the boards and onto the ice forcing him to lose possession of the puck. This allowed Mark Essery to sneak away and flip the puck past Elmira’s netminder, Ryan Mulder, without being found guilty. Sparking a fire under the visiting bench, Elmira needed just 16 seconds of the double-minor Power Play that they were deservingly given to knot the game back at even. Cam Yarwood wound up from the point and blasted a shot on net producing a juicy rebound that was put home by the man himself, Sean Reynolds. When duty calls, Reynolds produces. Just 33 seconds later, Elmira sent another message back to Mentor. The elusive D-man, Cam Yarwood, walked into the zone and cut right to the slot zipping one past the Ice Breaker’s goaltender, Derek Moser. The Enforcers refused to take their foot off the gas pedal as Dmytro Babenko was able to find the back of the net with the help of his teammates, Kyle Stevens and Brendan Hussey. Mentor’s head coach, Iain Duncan, had seen enough from his goaltender for tonight, calling to his backup, John Sellie-Hanson. This would serve as Sellie-Hanson’s FHL debut, and he had some rather large skates to fill. Moser entered play tonight atop of the league in Goals Against Average at 3.01. However, Elmira was able to make that stat look nonexistent.
After both teams exerted all of their energy in the 1stperiod, the 2ndperiod played out to be a little more relaxing. Elmira picked up where they left off, when they were able to capitalize on a 3-on-1 odd-man rush 5 minutes into the period. Brendan Hussey fed Mitch Atkins across the slot and he buried his opportunity, although it was not pretty. Atkins seemed to have lost an edge but still managed to light the lamp while falling to the ice; even though it was not highlight reel material, it still counts. Mentor was finally able to respond to the ambush of the Elmira offense after surrendering four unanswered goals. The Ice Breakers were gifted a 5-on-3-man advantage, and they knew what to do with it. Brody Duncan ripped one by the glove of Ryan Mulder after receiving a dime from Gordy Bonnel to lessen the deficit to 4-2. Although, Mulder had proved to be spectacular so far, his team did not give him much of a chance after taking back-to-back penalties. Mentor was able to pick up their game a little more in the 2nd period, possessing the puck more in the offensive zone and evening out the play. The Ice Breakers outshot the Enforcers in the 2ndperiod 13-8.
Coming as a bit of an oddity, no tallies were made on the scoreboard in the 3rdperiod as both teams were held scoreless. However, the fans in Ohio did get to watch some boxing-on-ice tonight as well when Elmira’s, Joe Cannan, and Mentor’s, Mark Essery, exchanged fists with each other. After a fast and wild start to the game where Elmira quickly jumped out in front, the play and opportunities were mostly even between the two teams. Mentor outshot Elmira 27-26, but the Enforcers were able to prevail in the category that matters the most, goals. After two tough games in Carolina and getting shutout on the weekend, this was an important victory for the Enforcers. After coming into tonight going 120 minutes without a goal, the help of their leading scorer and 1ststar of the game, Sean Reynolds, was much needed. By coming out as victorious tonight, Elmira leaped into 4thplace in the FHL standings surpassing the Port Huron Prowlers after they suffered a tight 4-3 loss to the Watertown Wolves tonight. This puts the Enforcers in a playoff position, while it is still just their first year in the league.
The Enforcers have an opportunity to leap into a tie for third place tomorrow night if they can prevail over the Ice Breakers once again, and the Danville Dashers happen to fall to the first-place Carolina Thunderbirds. Stay tuned in to watch the Elmira Enforcers climb their way to the top!