Cavaliere, Koepplinger Carry Birds Over Black Bears
The marvelous goaltending at one end by Mario Cavaliere was aided by a clutch offensive effort from Josh Koepplinger at the other. Throw in Gus Ford breaking his own franchise record for points in a single season, and a triumphant 4-3 victory for the Carolina Thunderbirds over the Binghamton Black Bears.
In the first meeting of the season between two of the FPHLs top four teams, and a series many believe may be a preview of a potential Commissioner's Cup Final, it lived up to that hype and billing. A playoff-like atmosphere inside Visions Veterans Memorial Arena served as the backdrop for a Friday night thriller.
This game simply had everything. Bruising physicality, stalwart netminding, displays of skill and speed. Coupled with a long penalty sheet and a longer list of hot tempers, this one was the instant classic everyone hoped for.
Cavaliere didn't earn a star, but more than deserved one. In his fifth straight victory between the pipes, Cavaliere stopped 41 of 44 Black Bear shots.
The Thunderbirds fought back from two separate 2-goal deficits. Koepplinger's first goal of the night, which he banked in off the glove of Riley McVeigh. Blake Peavey, the game's second star, followed just a minute and nineteen seconds later with a shorthanded breakaway tally to tie the game at 3 midway through the middle frame.
Cavaliere stood on his head down the stretch to keep the game tied, and Koepplinger sniper home a wrister short side on McVeigh late in the third for the game winning goal.
Carolina and Binghamton still have two more games to go from Visions Veterans Memorial Arena on the weekend. Friday night at 7:05 and a Sunday matinee at 3:05.