Birds Conquer Sea Wolves 3-2 On Novant Health Night
The Carolina Thunderbirds outlasted a hungry Mississippi Sea Wolves squad by a final score of 3-2 in front of a crowd of 2,659 inside the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex on Novant Health Healthcare Appreciation Night.
Mississippi played like a team with nothing to lose, but still determined to play spoiler to their division rival in the 12th of fourteen meetings between the two this regular season.
They got off to a stellar start, as team point leaders Yianni Liriakos and Yaroslav Yevdokimov paired up to finish off a 2-on-1 rush three and give the Sea WoIves a 1-0 lead just three minutes in.
22 seconds later, Jiri Pestuka responded. Number 24 put home his 24th goal of the season off a pass from Danny Martin off the end boards, beating Joe Sheppard short side and tying the game at 1.
Jake Raleigh broke the tie with just over 4 minutes left in the opening frame, and the score remained 2-1 Sea Wolves through the rest of the first and the initial half of the second period.
It was a 75 second stretch midway through the middle frame that proved to be the difference.
Lucas Rowe sent a saucer pass right on the tape of Josh Koepplinger after a clean breakout started by Martin. Koepplinger had time and space to wire a wicked wrister past the glove side of Sheppard at the 14:44 mark of the second period for his 33rd of the season to tie the game at 2. The eventual game winning goal wasn't too far behind.
Just 1 minute and 15 seconds later, Blake Peavey put a wrist shot toward the net from the far point. Dawson Baker somehow got a stick on it with his back to the net, and wildly redirected the shot in between Sheppard's pads and into the back of the net for his 18th of the year and the eventual game winner.
Boris Babik had a good bounce back game in goal for the Thunderbirds, stopping 31 of 33 Sea Wolf shots.
Baker, Koepplinger and Pestuka, Carolina's three goal scorers on the night, were also named the games three stars.
The Thunderbirds host Mississippi again tomorrow night for the second of a three game weekend series. Puck drop is set for 6:05 ET.