ICE BREAKERS COMEBACK SALVAGES A POINT IN NEW YORK

By Jared Tennant

PHOTO: CMC Photography

The Mentor Ice Breakers were blown out against the Watertown Wolves on Friday night before recovering from an early 2-0 hole and a 4-3 deficit with seven minutes left in regulation to earn a point in overtime against the Elmira Enforcers the following day.

Friday, January 4 – Wolves 7, Ice Breakers 2

Through two periods at Watertown Municipal Arena, there was a competitive game going on between the Ice Breakers and the Wolves. Watertown led 4-2 after a power-play goal late in the second period and the game seemed to be headed towards an exciting final period.

Unfortunately for Mentor, Watertown had other plans. The Wolves erupted for three third-period goals, including a pair of goals within a span of 58 seconds, and took down the Ice Breakers by a 7-2 final in front of 1,101 fans.

Matt Kadolph continued his productive start to his FHL career when he gave the Ice Breakers a 1-0 lead on the power play at 9:00 of the opening frame. Patrick Porkka and Steven Fowler factored in with assists, which was notable considering that Fowler was playing in his first period with Mentor.

Watertown tied things up two minutes later with a George Holt goal before Tyler Gjurich continued his fantastic season with a goal that gave the Wolves a 2-1 advantage. The duo of Gjurich and former Commissioner’s Cup playoffs MVP Gavin Yates has not been kind to Mentor this season. Those two players have combined for a staggering 37 points (22-15-37) in just seven games against the Ice Breakers. Gjurich has enjoyed a six-point night and a four-goal outing against Mentor

After Yates scored his first goal of the game at 2:11 of the second period to make it 3-1, Nate Farrington netted his third goal of the season at 11:15 off assists from Gordy Bonnel and Mark Essery to cut Watertown’s lead in half. Bonnel was playing in his first game back since missing Mentor’s last few games due to an upper body injury.

The remainder of the contest was quite forgetful for Ice Breakers fans. Watertown took control of the game while Mentor was unable to get anything going offensively. In what was a frustrating game for the Ice Breakers, defenseman Brody Duncan racked up 22 penalty minutes after serving a bench minor and receiving a pair of 10-minute misconduct penalties.

Yates finished the game with a hat trick while Gjurich added a four-point night (2-2-4) to his impressive 2018-19 resume against Mentor. Watertown forward Anton Kalinnin dished out three assists while Wolves goaltender Christopher Marsillo was especially impressive, stopping 34 of 36 Ice Breakers shots. Marsillo played collegiately for three years at Rutgers University before appearing in a pair of games with the Northern Federals in the FHL last season but saw little success. The outing against the Ice Breakers was by far the most successful of the 26-year-old Marsillo’s career.

Saturday, January 5 – Enforcers 5, Ice Breakers 4 (OT)

It would have been easy for Mentor to lay down and give up after getting blown out by Watertown and falling behind 2-0 within the first eight minutes against Elmira on Saturday night. But the Ice Breakers fought back and forced the first overtime period in club history to earn a well-deserved point before Enforcers forward Sean Reynolds gave his team a 5-4 win on a one-time finish at 1:02 of the extra period.

The Ice Breakers first goal of the game came from defenseman Thomas McKinnon on the power play, making the score 2-1 as the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms for the first intermission. Mentor came out firing on all cylinders in the second period and was rewarded when Gordy Bonnel tied the game at 2-2 after cashing in on a 2-on-1 fast break.

The back-and-forth affair continued at 12:36 of the second when Stepan Timofeyev fired a wrist shot from the blue line that snuck past Ice Breakers netminder Derek Moser, who came on in relief on John Sellie-Hanson after Elmira opened the game with two quick goals.

Brody Duncan opened the third period with a wrist shot that was deflected off an Elmira defender into the Enforcers goal. Duncan’s goal was notable because Elmira forward Ahmed Mahfouz, the FHL’s all-time leader in scoring and penalty minutes, tried to get under the Toledo native’s skin by following him around the ice late in the second and early in the third period. Mahfouz had taken exception to a hit he received from Duncan and did everything in his power to get the Ice Breakers defenseman to drop the gloves. Instead, Duncan resisted, and Mentor was rewarded with a four-minute power-play when Mahfouz got a little too physical.

Duncan’s goal tied the game at 3-3 and it was the best possible response to Mahfouz’s taunts. But Mahfouz is the league’s all-time leading scorer for a reason, and he restored Elmira’s lead at 4:59 of the final period. The Ottawa, Ontario native took a puck from behind the Ice Breakers net and wrapped it around the crease and just past the outstretched leg of Moser.

Two minutes after Mahfouz’s goal, Ice Breakers blueliner Joe Swenson scored immediately after a faceoff to knot the score at 4-4. Swenson fired a rocket of a wrist shot over the shoulder of netminder Troy Passingham for the first goal of his pro career.

Elmira wasted no time in the 3-on-3 overtime period, scoring on a one-time shot that Moser had no chance on just over a minute into the extra frame and sending over 4,100 fans at First Arena into a frenzy.

The Enforcers held a 45-37 edge in shots on goal after out-shooting the Ice Breakers 19-10 throughout the third period and overtime. The Ice Breakers were the last team in the FHL to participate in an overtime period after starting the season with 23 straight games decided in regulation. Forward Alex Morrow contributed a pair of assists for Mentor on a night where half of the Ice Breakers’ goals came without an assist.

Mentor will look to bounce back from this weekend’s results with a home-and-home series against the Port Huron Prowlers next weekend, beginning on Friday, January 11th at the Mentor Civic Ice Arena.

The Ice Breakers, proud members of the Federal Hockey League, are in their inaugural season. Single-game tickets and ticket packages are available 24/7 online at mentoricebreakers.com/tickets. They can also be purchased at the box office prior to every home game or by calling (440) 290-8502.