Despite visiting antics, Carolina demolishes Columbus 9-3

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.- The Carolina Thunderbirds, proud members of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, blasted the Columbus River Dragons 9-3 in the final game of the weekend.

“The boys played well in front of me,” said Thunderbirds start Nick Modica who earned his first professional win at home in game, “we put a lot of emphasis on defense and we executed.”

Carolina’s Jan Salak began the game white hot, scoring on two of his first three shots. Salak would go on to have four goals in the game, notching his second hat trick of the season.

Daniel DiCristofaro, scored on a floating knuckleball from center in the first period, and it would be the only goal Columbus scored until the third period.

The Thunderbirds unleashed in the second period, scoring five goals in the frame. Salak would score twice after Daniel Klinecky and Joe Cangelosi buried goals of their own. Klinecky eclipsed the 60-point mark as a rookie defenseman.

Jon Buttitta would also score his first of two in the game with under two minutes to go in the second period.

“The boys played well, we did what we needed to do to get that win and that including scoring,” said veteran defenseman Jay Kenney.

In the third period, Columbus’s Jacob Gerson and Ivan Bondarenko scored to narrow the deficit to 7-3.

At 13:37 into the third period, Columbus head coach Jerome Bechard grabbed a stick and attempted to break it over the glass in the direction of Carolina head coach Andre Niec. Niec rose to the platform behind the Thunderbird bench and began vehemently exchanging words with the former Columbus Cottonmouths (SPHL) enforcer.

Referee Ron Schwartz ejected both head coaches from the game. However, as Niec began walking to the exit, Bechard shrugged off his jacket, prompting Niec to do the same. At that point, Nick Wright threw off his gloves and called for Niec to fight. Walking away, Niec declined the request.

Wright followed Niec as far as the Columbus bench door with Mike Baker standing in between the coach and the River Dragons defenseman. At that point, Wright grabbed Baker from behind and thrust him into the River Dragon bench and began whaling on him. Niec jumped into the pile to protect his player while the remainder of the rosters escalated the situation into a full-scale brawl.

“I saw it happen and I mean, it’s my fourth game in the league,” said Modica.

Dominik Fejt bolted out of the penalty box and decked Columbus goalie Cody Karpinski who had gone to join the melee. After that, M.J. Graham jumped George Holt at center ice, also darting from the penalty box.

Every player and coach on the River Dragon bench was on the ice in the kerfuffle, leaving only healthy-scratch Frankie McClendon in his track suit on the visitors bench.

“It was a clown show,” said Kenney, “it can’t get out of hand like that.”

After the dust settled, and following a 15-minute delay, Columbus saw Graham, Wright, Karpinski, Bechard, and forward Jay Croop ejected. Carolina saw Niec, Holt, Baker, and Fejt thrown out after the altercation.

“It was mostly them,” continued Kenney, “their coach started the whole thing with the stick and it escalated from there, we were put in a bad spot where we had to defend ourselves.”

**On the boxscore, Niec was assessed a match penalty for “attempt to injure,” this is incorrect. Niec received a match penalty for “fighting a player."**

Jo Osaka scored his first goal since returning to the Thunderbird roster after a 14-game loan to Roanoke of the SPHL. Buttitta potted an empty-netter with seven seconds to go.

Carolina improves to 33-6-2-5 and 5-1-0-1 vs. Columbus all-time.

The Thunderbirds will face Port Huron at McMorran Arena on Friday.