Birds Sweep Sea Wolves, End Season Series With 6-3 Win


Another strong effort from the Czech line, timely goaltending, and all in all a full team effort lifted the Carolina Thunderbirds to a 6-3 victory over the Mississippi Sea Wolves Sunday afternoon. 

The win, which came before a crowd of 2,743 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex, completed a weekend sweep by Carolina and was the Thunderbirds' 11th win over the Sea Wolves in their 14th and final meeting of the regular season.

The penultimate home game of the regular season for the Thunderbirds got off to an inauspicious start. A shot from Mississippi's Kyle Russel banked off the skate of Blake Peavey in front of his own net, wildly changed direction and snuck between the pads of Carolina goaltender Gregg Hussey to put the Sea Wolves in front 1-0 less than five minutes in.

A little over two minutes later, the first Thunderbirds power play netted Carolina's first goal of the afternoon. Jiri Pestuka continued his hot play of late, blasting home a one-timer just fifteen seconds into the man advantage to tie the game at 1.

Four minutes after Pestuka scored, Matt Caranci wired one home to put the Sea Wolves back in front 2-1. A lead than only lasted a minute and 41 seconds.

On another power play Josh Koepplinger jammed home his own rebound behind Blake Weyrick to tie the game at 2.

A one-timer from Ethan Busch-Anderson in the final few minutes of the first gave the Sea Wolves a 3-2 lead. It was the last shot from Mississippi that would find the back of the net. 

Pestuka stuffed home his second of the day and 26th of the season in the midst of a wild net mouth scramble with under a minute remaining in the first. 

Weyrick was injured in the chaotic chance, exited the game and did not return. Joe Sheppard served admirably in relief, but Carolina's offensive firepower was simply too much for he and his Sea Wolf teammates to handle.

Petr Panacek sniped home a wicked wrist shot less than five minutes into the middle frame. His 19th of the season, and third of the weekend, was the only goal of the middle frame.

Gus Ford stickhandled his way to his 45th goal of the campaign, adding an insurance marker eight and a half minutes into the third. Lucas Rowe threw the final dagger with an empty netter to seal the deal at the 18:39 mark of the final frame.

Captain John Buttitta earned third star honors for his two assists on the afternoon. Panacek's goal and assist earned him second star, and Pestuka's two goal effort garnered him first star. Gregg Hussey got stronger in goal as the game went on, stopping 29 of Mississippi's 32 shots.

The Thunderbirds now sit just one point back of the Columbus River Dragons for first place in the Continental Division with just four regular season games remaining. Fittingly, those two teams square off in all four of those remaining games. The first of the 4 comes on Friday night from the Civic Center in Columbus, GA.