The Greenville Road Warriors entered the 2011 Kelly Cup Playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference and earned the right to play the eighth seeded Elmira Jackals. Elmira had a team that could score goals, as was evidenced by 249 goals which were the third most in the East, but had a hard time defending. The Jackals’ 264 goals given up were second most in the entire league. That seemed to bode well for the Road Warriors who scored the league’s second most goals at 255. The Road Warriors also had home ice advantage for the best-of-five series, but a quirk in the schedule saw the first two games played at First Arena, home of the Jackals.
The teams split the first two games in Elmira with Greenville winning big in Game One, and the Jackals responding with an offensive outburst in Game Two. Both offenses were clicking early in the series with the Road Warriors and Jackals averaging four goals per game over the first two. Once back in Greenville, though, the defenses and goaltending took over in a big way. In Game Three Chris Beckford-Tseu made his first start of the playoffs and posted an 18-save shutout in Greenville’s 2-0 victory. Marco Cousineau was nearly as good in net for Elmira as he surrendered just one goal on 29 shots. He was off the ice for an extra attacker when Sam Klassen’s empty net goal with 26 seconds remaining sealed the win. As an encore, Cousineau nearly stole the entire show in Game Four as Elmira tried to stave off elimination.
The Jackals picked up the all-important first goal as Yannick Tifu slipped a long range shot past Beckford-Tseu midway through the opening period. But with the backing of their faithful fans, the Road Warriors stormed back with a goal by Andrew Rowe within the first minute of the second period and knotted the score at one. Rowe’s goal was part of a 20-shot assault on Elmira’s net over the first two periods, and the pressure ramped up from there. Thirteen shots were pumped on Cousineau in each the third period and first overtime frame as the Road Warriors out-shot the Jackals 26-11 in an attempt to break the tie. Everyone in the building inched closer to the edge of their seat as the second sudden death overtime frame began.
While he wouldn’t score the winning goal, Beckford-Tseu did his part to play the role of hero by turning aside four Elmira shots in the second overtime and setting the stage for one of the Road Warriors’ skaters to shine. A failed breakout by the Jackals gave Jimmy Kilpatrick and Marc-Olivier Vallerand a sparkling 2-on-1 break, but Cousineau made one of his best saves of the night and denied Vallerand’s one-timer by sprawling to his left. A big scrum ensued after the whistle, but after tempers calmed the Road Warriors had an offensive zone faceoff. What transpired off of that draw set the bar for the top moment of the Road Warriors’ season.
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