Despite late surge, Carolina holds off Columbus 4-3

COLUMBUS, Ga.- The Carolina Thunderbirds, proud members of the Federal Prospects Hockey League and 2019 Commissioner’s Cup champions, defeated the Columbus River Dragons 4-3 at the Columbus Civic Center on Friday night.

“I’m tired, I think I’m 37 and Stan (Vlasov) is the next oldest guy on the team at 30 or 29, it’s a long game,” said head coach Andre Niec. Niec dressed as a player for the first time this season and earned an assist to notch his 60th career FPHL point.

Carolina scored first when a dump-in from George Holt hit a glass stanchion and ricocheted to Joe Cangelosi for the game’s first goal.

Petr Panacek would add another at 0:32 of the second period to put the Thunderbirds in front by a pair. Panacek became the third player on the team to reach a double-digit total in points.

Columbus threw a couple of good chances at Henry Dill who held a shutout through two periods. Jay Croop broke the shutout early in the third period to make it 2-1.

However, one minute later, George Holt beat River Dragons goalie Jared Rutledge to make it 3-1.

Daniel Klinecky crashed the net on a Dominik Fejt shot to give the Birds a 4-1 lead late in the third.

The game turned quickly when Ivan Bondarenko deflected Wyatt Trumbley’s shot from the point with 1:08 to go in the game. 61 seconds later M.J. Graham pounded home his fifth goal of the season. Time ran out for the River Dragons though after they lost the ensuing faceoff.

The two teams play tomorrow at 6:05 p.m. in Winston-Salem.

“I think tomorrow will be a totally different game,” said Niec.