Despite being outshot 24-11, the Utica Pioneers (2-1) scored the cycle against the Elmira Soaring Eagles (0-3) with power play, shorthanded, and even strength goals on the way to a 3-1 victory. Utica also killed off all ten Elmira power plays during the game.
“Any time you are on the road, it is you against the house,” said Utica coach Gary Heenan. “You shouldn’t win games like this where you are in the penalty box all night.”
Utica struggled in its own zone during the first period, but Elmira was unable to capitalize. The offensive units from both teams were sloppy with the puck throughout the opening stanza, only managing to muster a total of seven shots on goal between them.
Of those seven shots, Elmira garnered five of them with three good opportunities challenging Utica netminder Adam Dekker. At the opposite end of the ice, Elmira goaltender Raphael Cundari only saw two shots on net, with only one of them truly being a good chance for the Pioneers.
With the poor puck control and dearth of shots on goal, it wasn’t a surprise that the first period was scoreless.
“We lacked jump in the first period,” said Heenan. “Sometimes this time of year that happens. Then we settled in.”
Both offenses looked much better in the second period. Elmira’s revitalization was aided by a string of three straight power plays, including an extended five-on-three advantage three minutes in to the period. However, despite peppering the Utica net with five great shots during the power play, Dekker came up with every save to stymie the Soaring Eagles.
Just over a minute after the Pioneers finally got back to even strength, Utica scored a goal on a power play of its own. After Cundari easily saved a soft wrist shot, a scramble for the puck broke out at the top of the Soaring Eagles crease that Kevin Krogol finally jabbed home at 6:35 to give Utica the 1-0 lead.
The parade to the penalty box continued during the remainder of the second period, limiting the opportunity for either team to build much momentum.
The Pioneers special teams again came through late in the stanza with a shorthanded goal at 16:58 to extend their lead to 2-0. Brandon Laidlaw carried the puck from the faceoff circle in the Pioneers zone up the right side and all the way to the top of the circle in the Elmira zone, where he ripped off a slap shot. The puck deflected off the top of Cundari’s shoulder pads, but still had enough momentum to carry high in to the top of the net for the goal.
“That [goal] took the wind out of our sails,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “That is a save we have to make.”
Despite trailing by a score of 2-0, Elmira continued to outshoot Utica 8-5 in the second period.
With the two goal lead, Utica was able to apply a much more aggressive forecheck in the third period. Elmira struggled at times to get the puck moving out of their zone with any momentum.
Utica again got in ran afoul of the referees midway through the third period, giving Elmira fifty three seconds of a five-on-three power play. The closest the Soaring Eagles came to scoring was dinging a slap shot off the crossbar, as Utica harmlessly killed off the extended man-down.
Elmira finally broke through the scoreboard at 15:05 when Michael Richard put the puck in the back of the net just as Utica finished killing off a penalty. This narrowed the Pioneers lead to 2-1.
But the joy in the Thunderdomes was short lived as Utica answered right back just under two minutes later. Brandon Laidlaw broke in to the Elmira zone down the left boards. Just as he was about to run out of real estate, he slid the puck over to Bryce Dale streaking down the slot who deflected it past Cundari to give Utica the 3-1 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the game.