LEWISTON — Fresh off a tryout with the Southern Professional Hockey League, during which he nearly made a team as a walk-on tryout, Mike Carpenter wasn't quite ready to let go of his dream to play professional hockey.
With the second-year Federal Hockey League participating in a five-game trial run in his backyard, Carpenter saw his opportunity.
"I'd heard something about it earlier in the week, and I wanted to check and make sure everything was OK," Carpenter said. "I said, 'Yeah, sure,' I wanted the opportunity, and let's see how it goes."
The ink had barely dried on his first official professional contract when Carpenter, a Minot native and St. Dominic Academy graduate, stepped on the familiar Androscoggin Bank Colisee ice wearing a Brooklyn Aviators jersey.
"It was nice to get the extra cheers from the fans," Carpenter said.
The Aviators, one of eight teams in the fledgling league, and the Akwesasne Warriors took to the ice in Lewiston on Thursday in a rematch of last year's league final, which Akwesasne won.
Brooklyn exacted its revenge.
Anthony Iaquinto and Jordan Bernier scored goals 51 seconds apart in the final seven minutes of regulation to rally the Aviators to a 3-2 victory over the Warriors in front of an announced crowd of 1,284.
"Last year, we went 0-3 to start the season, so to get the first win this year, with a lot of new guys, against a team with a lot of veterans and older players like that, that's pretty good for us," Aviators coach Rob Miller said.
The goals spoiled a solid effort from Akwesasne keeper David Plouffe, who stuffed 39 Brooklyn opportunities, most coming in the second and third periods.
The teams battled through a mostly scoreless first period, despite ample opportunities for both squads to score. Brooklyn goalie Thomas Lee Plouffe was busy, stopping a combined 28 shots in the initial period of play.
Miguel Delisle finally broke the ice with a goal at 15:55 of the opening frame when he gathered a loose puck at the top of the left side of the crease and lofted it over a scrum in front. The puck floated into the cage behind Lee, putting the defending league champs on top by one.
Brooklyn carried play early in the second, but it was Akwesasne and former NHL skater Pierre Dagenais who found the back of the net on a mismatch down low. Dagenais took a feed from Sylvain Deschetelets in front and buried the puck behind Lee for a 2-0 advantage.
Brooklyn made one of its chances count at the midway point of the middle frame when Chris Ferazzoli finished a three-man passing play to cut the Akwesasne lead in half.
It took until the 13:23 mark of the third period, but after extended pressure from Brooklyn, the Aviators finally evened the game on an Iaquinto strike after a rush up the left side of the rink.
Fifty-one seconds later, Bernier shoveled the puck into an open net after the puck caromed off a defender to put the Aviators on top to stay.
For Carpenter, the experience was one he won't soon forget. Nor will the Aviators. Miller said following the game the team would probably invite Carpenter to play in the team's next game at Cape Cod before making any final decisions with regard to his future with the team.
"I haven't decided anything, I haven't talked to him yet," Carpenter said late Thursday night. "But we'll see. I definitely feel like I fit in, like I could play with these guys."