HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – It looked to be a low-scoring affair for game one of the Presidents Cup Quarterfinals matchup between the Huntsville Havoc and Evansville Thunderbolts. The score was all knotted up at two heading into the third period, and then the Havoc were unleashed. Huntsville, who outshot the Thunderbolts 25-11 through two periods, struggled to find an answer for Chris Janzen. However, something changed, and the Havoc scored four third-period goals to take down the Thunderbolts on Thursday night.
Evansville got off to a fast start in the first period. Just 1:38 into the game, Cameron Cook collected the puck after it hit a Havoc player in the face. The play turned into a 2-on-1 breakaway for the Thunderbolts. Cook skated into the offensive zone with Hayden Hulton to his left. Cook opted to take the shot himself and beat Hunter Vorva, giving the Bolts the game’s first goal.
The Havoc heavily outshot the Thunderbolts throughout the first period, 11-4, and the offensive pressure eventually forced a penalty. With 1:32 remaining in the first, Evansville’s Timothy Faulkner was called for a hook. The Havoc went on the powerplay but couldn’t find an answer before the end of the period. The Thunderbolts took a one-goal lead into the locker room after one.
The second period took a while to get going. Nearing the halfway point, the Havoc went on their second power play of the game. A Havoc shot went in from the blue line, and it looked like the game was going to be all tied up. Unfortunately for Huntsville, the goal was waved off because it was hit in with a high stick. The Thunderbolts would go on to kill off the penalty.
With 5:20 remaining in the second, Evansville was given another powerplay due to a Robbie Fisher hooking penalty. The Havoc played their normal aggressive penalty kill and nearly scored short-handed. Late in the power play, the Havoc once again found themselves on a breakaway. As the penalty expired, Cook took down Bauer Neudecker to prevent a one on none opportunity. Usually, that would be a good penalty to take, but in this instance, it was not.
Seventy-two seconds into the power play, Huntsville’s Nolan Kaiser made the Thunderbolts pay. He sent a slapshot soaring through the defense and past Chris Janzen. All of a sudden, the game was tied up at one. With the Havoc outshooting the Thunderbolts 25-11, both teams headed to the locker room, feeling the pressure of needing the next goal.
The Thunderbolts took the lead right out of the gate in the third period. Huntsville’s Dominick Procopio attempted to keep the puck in the Havoc offensive zone. The puck bounced off Conner Chatham, and it was off to the races. Chatham moved in on the breakaway and beat Vorva, giving the Thunderbolts back the lead.
Nearing the midway point of the period, Tyler Piacentini gathered a loose puck behind the Evansville net and found Jacob Barber all alone out front. Barber used a quick wrist shot to beat Janzen, and the game was all tied up again.
Thirty-five seconds later, the Havoc would take their first lead of the game. This goal came when Bauer Neudecker flipped the puck out from behind the net to Nate Pionk, and Pionk sent the puck home giving the Havoc their first lead.
Just past the period’s midway point, the Havoc struck again on the powerplay. This time it was Neudecker finding the back of the net. He moved in across the left-wing circle and snapped a shot past Janzen, making it a two-goal lead for Huntsville.
Jacob Barber added an empty-net goal with 1:08 remaining to give Huntsville a commanding three-goal lead. However, the thunderbolts were not about to call it quits. With just 36 seconds remaining, Cameron Cook scored for the Thunderbolts, netting his second of the night.
Despite the late comeback attempt by Evansville, the Havoc would take the first game of the series and head to Evansville for a Saturday night matchup that could see the Thunderbolts making a first-round playoff exit.
Game two will be played on Saturday night in Evansville. However, the game will not be played at the Ford Center. Instead, it will be played down the road at Swonder Ice Arena. The Thunderbolts will look to force a game three and avoid the first-round sweep, whereas the Havoc will be looking to close out the series and prepare for the semifinals.
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