Through two games of the Federal Hockey League’s Commissioner’s Cup Final, it’s been painfully clear who the better of the two teams has been, even if it didn’t show up on the scoreboard both nights.
Friday night’s Game 1 was a 7-3 drubbing in favor or Carolina, in which the Thunderbirds out-shot the visiting Elmira Enforcers by a 47-29 margin.
And if not for a Hall of Fame performance by Elmira goalie Troy Passingham in Saturday’s Game 2, a controversial and chaotic 4-3 overtime win for Carolina, it would have likely been a similar, if not worse, final score than we saw Friday. Passingham kicked aside 73 shots in the loss, which has to be a FHL record in a playoff game. And they still lost.
For the series, the Thunderbirds have out-shot Elmira to the tune of 124-54. That’s right, through two games the Thunderbirds have a +70 advantage in shots on goal.
Needless to say, the Elmira Enforcers had a herculean task in front of them if they were going to win this series and the title, and the task got that much harder, and borderline impossible today when the FHL handed down suspensions from the incident that took the headlines following Game 2.
That’s because the league announced that Elmira’s best player and top scorer, Ahmed Mafouz, along with Passingham and head coach Brent Clarke, were all suspended indefinitely, according to the FHL’s transactions page.
Honestly, you want to see a series played out as evenly as possible, but given what happened on Saturday night, you knew suspensions were coming, and really can’t even argue about them or say that they weren’t deserved. And with those suspensions likely comes the end of the series on Friday night in Elmira.
Again, Carolina has absolutely dominated this series, and that was with Mafouz on the ice and Passingham playing the game of his life in Game 2…and the team is still down 2-0 and on the verge of a sweep. Take those two out of the lineup, along with Coach Clarke, and you struggle to see a way that Elmira can get a win on Friday night, let alone finding a way to rally and win all three games that are left.
And this isn’t to take anything away from what either team has done this season no matter what happens the rest of the way. With a win in any of the next three games, Carolina locks up what is likely the greatest season in FHL history; and regardless of what happens over the remaining game(s), the Elmira Enforcers have had what is likely the greatest expansion season in FHL history, both on the ice and in the stands, but it sure does stink that this is how the finals (likely) comes to an end.
You had the two best teams in the league squaring off, and for two games we got what we expected and wanted, minus the mayhem that followed Saturday’s game. And now as a result, it basically spells the end of the FHL, kind of leaving it on a sour note.
But at least the Elmira players have a sense of humor about it, here’s what Friday’s likely starter in net for Elmira had to say on Twitter after the suspensions were handed down:
When you see the league transactions ahead of game 3 of the finals. pic.twitter.com/tRnBhLTGt8
— Nick Niedert (@nickniedert) April 23, 2019
That’s both hilarious, and an admission that Niedert and the remaining Enforcers know what they’re up against when the puck drops on Friday night. You don’t just lose your two best and most important players, and find a way to get better or suddenly solve what Carolina is doing out there.
Honestly, Carolina will probably win Friday, the team is just too deep, and too talented, and through two games I don’t think anyone else would argue otherwise. It’s a shame that we basically know what is going to happen this coming weekend, but at the same time, you can’t at all blame the league for doing the right thing and handing down those suspensions, even if it did prevent us from seeing both teams at their peak in Elmira.