The Elmira Enforcers are on the rise and have finally broken even to obtain a .500% record at (9-9), with the exception of two OT losses on the campaign. A crowd of 2,519 piled into the First Arena Friday night to watch their Enforcers defend their 3rdplace in the division. Elmira would defend their home ice against the Danville Dashers, who come into tonight sitting at a respectable 4thplace in the division with a record of (8-11-1-0). Elmira has profited off the return of their captain as Ahmed Mahfouz wasted no time getting on the statsheet Wednesday evening, tallying Elmira’s first goal in a 7-3 victory over the Watertown Wolves. Unfortunately, the Enforcers will be missing their true ‘enforcer’ in Darren Lamble as the Van-Man is forced to sit on the IR. Another thing you don’t get to see every day is watching a coach step onto the ice with his squad. However, for Head Coach Brent Clarke, there is no such thing as backing down. Clarke decided to lace up the skates for boys while injuries continue to nag the Elmira locker room. Elmira Enforcers’ owner, Robbie Nichols, would take on the duty of Head Coach for the night, seeking his 328thprofessional career win as a coach. This will mark the 5thcommencement between these clubs, with the series tied at two games apiece.
With all of the extracurricular activity taking place tonight, the festivities did not fail to start right away. Within three minutes of puck-drop, Elmira already found themselves trailing on the scoreboard. Coming into tonight, Elmira’s game plan was to contain Danville’s leading goal scorer, Stephen Gaul. However, early on the slippery center was able to make his presence known. The Dashers took off on a 3-on-2 fast break, with Head Coach Brent Clark on the defense. Ultimately targeting the rusty veteran, Danville was able to find Clarke on the weak-side and seam a pass across the slot that left a wide-open net for Gaul, marking his 15thgoal on the year. Later on in the period, Clarke started shaking off the rust and holding his own after peppering some shots on goal and making some crisp tape-to-tape passes. Eventually, the Enforcers were able to strike with just 17 seconds remaining in the 1stperiod. Tom Tracy was able to pound home a rebound after a booming slapshot came from the point off the stick of Cameron Yarwood. Better late than never, the Enforcers were able to knot the score at 1-1 before heading into the locker room after dominating the shot chart 18-9.
After some new additions to tonight’s lineup, Elmira finally started to create some chemistry with each other and truly hit their stride in the 2ndperiod. Halfway through the period, Sean Reynolds started to take over the game. Reynolds found himself in a 2-on-1 situation leaving him two options: slide the puck to his captain, Ahmed Mahfouz, or trust his own ability to pick his spot. Reynolds chose to trust his own ability to snipe and never looked back. Beating the Danville netminder low blocker-side, the Enforcers took the lead 2-1. Noticing the dominance of his top line, Robbie Nichols chose to leave the same forward line on the ice; it paid off. The Enforcers were able to capitalize on a turnover after a defensive zone mishap by the Dashers. The turnover allowed Elmira to create another 2-on-1 opportunity, and they picked up right where they left off. Reynolds wanted to change it up as he chose to share the puck on this odd-man rush by feeding it to Mahfouz across the slot. Mahfouz’s one-time shot banged off the pad of the Danville goaltender, leaving Reynolds a juicy rebound. Doing what he does best, Reynolds lit the lamp and proceeded to celly twice in one shift. After putting the team on his back with hustle and production, Reynolds and the Enforcers left the ice after two periods with a 3-1 lead.
With the absence of several players in tonight’s lineup, it was noticeable that Elmira was beginning to fatigue in the final period. Some of the top Enforcers such as: Cameron Yarwood, Glen Patterson, Sean Reynolds, and Ahmed Mahfouz were required to step up and log some large minutes. As the 3rdperiod dragged on for Elmira’s heavy legs, each player accepted their role well, especially Ahmed Mahfouz. Despite racking up some big Time-On-Ice, Mahfouz continued to produce. The Enforcers’ captain was able to finish in front of the net after being fed by a gorgeous pass from the corner by Kyle Stevens after twirling off his defender. After coming into tonight with two goals in the previous game, the scalding-hot Stevens was not finished. Relying on the odd-man rush for production tonight, Kyle Stevens was able to break through the defense with teammate, Chris Williamson, for a fast-break 2-on-1. Making no mistake, Stevens knew exactly what to do with the puck. Stopping on a dime and feeding Williamson across the crease to put the icing on the cake; the Enforcers took a 5-1 lead and never looked back. To send the crowd home with their money’s worth, Joe Cannon decided to drop the gloves with his opponent. Prior to the initiation of the fight, Cannon gave a nice signal to the crowd intending to get them on their feet, and a nice signal to his opponent by taunting him and begging him to hit him on the cheek. Cannon did not fail to get the crowd on their feet, nor inflict pain amongst his opponent.
When it comes to the Enforcers, you never know what surprise just may be thrown your way. However, you can always rely on them for some quality, yet, entertaining hockey. The fans who walked into the arena tonight most likely did not expect their Head Coach to tally an assist, but it got the job done and sent the crowd home happy. Come down to the first Arena tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. to see what the Enforcers may have up their sleeve as they take part in a rematch against the Danville Dashers. The Enforcers will look to continue to make history and secure their 5thwin in a row!
~Contributed by Brooks Vertoske