Head Coach Hat Trick Pushes Carolina To Regular Season Finale Win
Winston-Salem, NC - The Carolina Thunderbirds closed the regular season on a high note with a 7-1 victory over the Danville Dashers and a hat trick from perhaps the most unlikely of sources, their head coach Andre Niec.
Niec signed a celebrity contract ahead of the season finale in a way as a response to fans who called for him to play on home ice after his previous game was played on the road in Elmira.
Niec delivered in a big way just 4:14 into the game when his shot from the right wing found its way through Matt Kaludis and opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds.
Danville would answer with a power play tally from Levi Armstrong on a deflection in the slot from a Nathan Campbell shot.
Facing a tie hockey game heading into the first intermission locker room Jan Salak would guarantee the Thunderbirds the lead with a snipe that went short side on Kaludis and into the top-right corner.
That goal would eventually go down as the game-winner and it was all Thunderbirds for the final two periods.
Jay Croop started the scoring in the second period with a goal off his leg on a juicy rebound given up by Kaludis, later it was Andre Niec shooting low and scoring his second of the night.
In the third more of the same with Jiri Pestuka starting the scoring just 4:57 into the third. Then Michael Bunn rang a shorthanded shot into the top-left corner from about 30 feet for a 6-1 lead.
If that wasn't enough for the sellout crowd on Fan Appreciation Night, Andre Niec would give them what they want. His hat trick goal came with 1:34 left in the game and the crowd went from loud to deafening. Couple in a few fights at the end of the night between Eric Masters and Mike Baker and Adam Jonak and Matt Bacigalupo tangled with less than a minute to go.
When the final buzzer sounded the crowd cheered and saluted their team, their head coach and put an exclamation point on an incredible 2018-19 season.
Christian Pavlas picked up his FHL record 30th win of the season in this game stopping 24 of 25 shots Danville sent his way. Matt Kaludis took the loss, stopping 50 of 57 shots.
Three Stars of the Game