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Prowlers vs Carolina – 1st round game 1, April 19, 2024

Photos courtesy of David Dell – Delta Imaging Photography

By David Dell

PORT HURON- The 2023-2024 Federal Prospects Hockey League Commissioner’s Cup playoffs got underway Friday night in McMorran Arena with the Prowlers playing host to the (North) Carolina Thunderbirds.

This is the 3rd season in a row and 4th of 5 seasons where these two teams have squared off against each other in the first round of the playoffs.  Port Huron hoping to break the losing streak against Carolina that has blocked them from advancing since the 2017-2018 season.

Things looked like the same ol’ Prowlers when Gus Ford knocked the puck into the net, that had come in, in the air at 4:38 of the first period.  After further review by the referees, it was waved off as having been tipped in with a high stick. At 5:32 Dominic Loubert (1st of the playoffs), made the tally count this time as he grabbed a pass from Dalton Jay back to the blue line, skated in on the right wing, and fired a rocket from the faceoff circle that beat Mario Cavaliere.  The opportunity wouldn’t have been there, had Makar Sokolov not made 3 amazing stops just seconds before in the Port Huron end. The Men in Stripes let the teams play with only one minor being assessed to the Prowlers in the frame.  Both teams put up 10 shots on goal, but the home team put up the points.

Conor Foley (1st of the playoffs) would steal an outlet pass in the neutral zone at 6:00, then skate and snake his way into the Thunderbird zone, to fire from the left wing, putting his marker up, giving Port Huron a 2-0 lead. This prompted an Octopus appearance in the Port Huron zone, ala Detroit Red Wings.  The octopus tradition began in 1952 by the Cusimano brothers because, at that time, it required winning eight games to win the Stanley Cup.  The FPHL playoff format only requires seven wins, so maybe this octopus has an extra leg for extra good luck.  Fans waited for McMorran staff Dwayne to come out and do his best impression of Al Sobotka of Little Ceasars’ Arena crew, and swing the cephalopod over his head, but it required a linesman with a shovel to scoop it off the ice.   Carolina’s Joe Kennedy cut the lead in half with one minute remaining in the period from the blue line, as he beat Sokolov on the ice with a worm burner.  As the horn sounded to end the middle 20 minutes, Conor Foley and Tucker Scantlebury were dumped deep in Port Huron’s zone.  Sokolov skated over to corral a Thunderbird player prompting Cavaliere to skate 185 feet to address Sokolov.  Both goalies received Leaving the Crease minors while Conor Foley and Carolina’s Roman Kraemer picked up Cross Checking minors.  All penalties are to start at the beginning of the third period.  The Prowlers were outshot 4-10 in the period.

The last stanza began with Dan Chartrand (1st of the playoffs) at 1:20, in the midst of a seven-shot flurry that peppered the Thunderbird netminder.  Vincent Dekumbis fired a shot from the left side point that Chartrand was waiting for, who got the tip in from Cavaliere’s trapper side to restore the two-goal lead.  The Prowlers would rip off another seven shots to Carolina’s one until Bryan Parsons was whistled for Delay of Game when he inadvertently flipped the puck out of play when attempting to clear the zone.  Gus Ford took advantage of the powerplay just 1:15 later at 13:42 to pull the Thunderbirds to within one goal again.  Carolina pulled Cavaliere at 18:14 for the extra attacker but Sokolov stood tall at 6’ and held on for the first Prowler playoff win since the finals against the Watertown Wolves in the 2017-2018 campaign, in front of 1,140 excited fans.  Port Huron outshot the Thunderbirds 31-27 in the contest.

Port Huron travels to Winston-Salem North Carolina for game two and game three if necessary Saturday and Sunday night respectively.  The Prowlers, if they win the series will face the winner of the Columbus River Dragons and Mississippi Seawolves, for the second round of semi-finals.

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