The Carolina Thunderbirds’ game against the Elmira (N.Y.) Enforcers was suspended after one period when game officials decided it was unsafe to continue.
According to Scott Brand, the Thunderbirds’ general manager, the Thunderbirds led 2-1 after one period. The go-ahead goal was scored by Coach Andre Niec of the Thunderbirds, who dressed for the game because of a depleted bench.
“After Andre scored they showed the replay and the fans were not happy and as it turned out their bench emptied onto the ice and went to our bench to start some wrestling matches,” Brand said by phone.
After order was restored, the officials were leaving the ice when owner Robbie Nichols of the Enforcers went after one official, according to Brand.
“It also looked like an official bumped into Robbie but you really can’t go after officials like that so I’m not sure what’s going to happen because it’s a league matter at this point,” Brand said.
According to WETM, an NBC-affiliated television station in Elmira, when Nichols confronted one of the officials it was Nichols who was held back as he swung his arms.
Brand said it was soon after that where the officials decided they were not going to call the rest of the game.
“They said it was an unsafe environment so they got out of there,” Brand said.
The first-place Thunderbirds headed into the game with a 39-5 record and the Enforcers, a first-year team, were in second place. The Thunderbirds already clinched the top seed in the Federal Hockey League playoffs.
A call to the Enforcers front office was not answered. However, after letting the phone ring several times, someone picked up the phone and then hung up.
Brand said the Thunderbirds were safely on their bus heading back to Winston-Salem.
“As far as we know it’s a suspended game, so we hope to finish the game,” Brand said. “They do come play us later in the season but we don’t go back to Elmira.”
The Thunderbirds will play at home on Friday and Saturday against the Mentor (Ohio) Ice Breakers.
“Andre is mad because he wants his goal to count,” Brand said.
Brand said it’s unlikely that Niec, 36, will get back on the ice this weekend.
“Maybe he will play when Elmira comes later in the season,” Brand said. “He’s in great shape and skates with the guys during practices so he was obviously excited when he scored the goal.”
Elmira headed into the game with a 24-14 record and need one more win to clinch a playoff berth.
Andrew “Sarge” Richards, the vice commissioner of the FHL, said the league would have a statement late Sunday night or on Monday.
“We are gathering all the necessary information so we’ll make a decision on what happens next,” Richards said. “It’s unfortunate what happened but we are gathering all the information that we can.”