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Elmira defeats Utica and wins the Utica Thanksgiving Showcase

The red-hot Elmira Soaring Eagles take down the #3 Utica Pioneers 5-2 and claim the tournament championship.

The #3 Utica Pioneers and Elmira Soaring Eagles met on Saturday night at the Adirondack Bank Center for the championship of the Utica Thanksgiving Showcase. The Soaring Eagles advanced to the championship by defeating the #8 Oswego St Lakers 7-1 on Friday afternoon. The Pioneers came back on Friday night to beat the Saint Johns Johnnies 2-1 in the shootout to fill out the other half of the championship bracket.

After a scoreless first period in which both teams went 0 for 1 on the power play, the scoring picked up dramatically in the second. Five goals were scored in the middle stanza including four in a span of less than three minutes. The home team got on the board first when Dante Spagnuolo beat Elmira goaltender Kyle Curtin with a shot from the right side for a 1-0 Utica lead.

Utica’s Vladislav Pshenichnikov (#7) sets up a screen in front of Elmira goaltender Kyle Curtin (#30). Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

The crowd was still buzzing from the Spagnuolo goal when Elmira struck back just twenty-two seconds later. A turnover at the Soaring Eagles blue line led to a breakaway goal by Kerfalla Toure, who beat Utica netminder Ethan Roberts to tie the game at one. Toure also scored in the victory over Oswego.

Elmira takes the first game of the Thanksgiving Classic

Forty seconds after the Toure goal, Elmira took the lead. A shot from the left circle by Janis Vizbelis deflected off Pioneers defenseman Brian Scoville, knuckleballed past Roberts and in. A once jubilant home crowd was suddenly stunned.

Utica Pioneers defeat Saint Johns in the shootout

Scoville, however, lit the lamp just a minute and a half after the Vizbelis goal to tie the score. The Pioneer captain fired a blast from the point that was redirected past a surprised Curtin and into the back of the net.

Utica’s Michael Herrera (#8) looks to make a play. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

A raucous second period that had twenty-nine shots on goal between the teams ended in controversy. As the closing seconds ticked away, Elmira’s Shawn Kennedy was left alone in the slot for a point-blank chance. Kennedy wired a shot past Roberts as the buzzer sounded leaving a question of whether the puck crossed the goal line in time. After a lengthy review, the officials determined it had crossed in time and put one second back on the clock. Utica’s Khristian Acosta took a roughing penalty as the buzzer sounded for the second time to give the visitors a power play to start the third.

Utica goaltender Ethan Roberts scans the zone during Saturday night’s game. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

That power play proved costly for the home team. Division III’s best power play needed only twenty-six seconds to capitalize as Bailey Krawczyk scored to make the score 4-2. After the Krawczyk goal, the Pioneers pressed for their third goal but Curtin and the Elmira defense were able to hold them at bay. Utica Head Coach Gary Heenan pulled Roberts with three minutes remaining for an extra skater but it would prove costly. Shortly after Roberts made it to the bench, Chance Gorman followed up his hat trick on Friday with an empty net goal to seal the 5-2 victory and tournament championship for the Soaring Eagles.

Notes: Saturday night’s victory over Utica was Elmira’s third victory over a ranked opponent in less than a week. They defeated #5 Geneseo on Tuesday, #8 Oswego on Friday, and #3 Utica on Saturday…Utica outshot Elmira 39-27…Utica was 1/3 on the power play, while Elmira was 1/4…Utica’s overall record now stands at 6-1-3 (5-0-1 UCHC)…Elmira is now 8-2-2 overall (2-2-0 NEHC)…Utica’s next game is the annual Teddy Bear Toss game on Friday night December vs Division I Stonehill.

All-Tournament Team + MVP

  • Defense: Mitch Haight (Elmira).
  • Defense: Brian Scoville (Utica).
  • Forward: Chance Gorman (Elmira).
  • Forward: Alexander Gullichsen (Utica).
  • Forward: Janis Vizbelis (Elmira).
  • Goaltender: Kyle Curtin (Elmira).
  • MVP: Shawn Kennedy (Elmira).
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