Jobs Not Finished
Columbus, GA – For the last month and a half, the Carolina Thunderbirds have made a statement in the FPHL. Winners of 13 of their last 14, including handing Binghamton its biggest loss of the season, 8-3, on December 9th, and taking the first three matchups of the year against rival Columbus, the Thunderbirds enter possibly their biggest test of the season, a three-game series with major implications in the race for the Continental division title against the River Dragons.
Last Saturday at home, Carolina was outplayed early, not recording a shot over the first 10 minutes of the first period and trailing by a goal. But as the team has shown all season, Carolina can turn it around instantly. Petr Panacek beat Breandan Colgan to tie the game, and less than a minute later, Gus Ford gave the Thunderbirds their first lead of the night.
The lead didn’t last long, but from there, it was game on. The two sides traded goals in the second period and went to the final 20 minutes tied at three, but another dominant 3rd period closed out the three points for the Thunderbirds.
Just 46 seconds into the 3rd, Jan Salak snapped one past Colgan giving the Thunderbirds the lead and the lead for good. After both sides hit the post multiple times, Ford iced the game with just over four minutes left blasting a slap shot past Colgan securing the points for the Thunderbirds in a 6-3 victory.
Ford and Salak have been on a tear across the past three weeks. Salak has scored in each of the last five games, including netting two three separate times, while Ford continues to cement himself as one of the premier players in the FPHL with 17 goals and 31 points this season. The 17 goals have him tied for second in the league while the 31 points has him in third most.
In net, Mario Cavaliere has been magnificent. Last time out against Columbus, the netminder saved a season high 51 shots on 54 attempts picking up his 14th win on the year. Cavaliere has posted 1.98 goals against average, .938 save percentage and has a shutout under his belt. The Mississauga, Ontario native leads the FPHL in GAA, SV%, wins and is tied for first in shutouts.
This weekend, with a three-in-three, including traveling after game one back home, Carolina will be missing some key components to their early season success. Forward Roman Kraemer and defensemen Tucker Firth have both been listed as inactive, having Head Coach Steve Harrison extend Justin Movalli and sign Brayden Crowe to the roster.
Columbus, who had its six-game win streak snapped in the loss last Saturday, looks to rebound, but the Thunderbirds have different plans. Puck drop for game one on the weekend is set for 7:35 p.m. from the Columbus Civic Center Friday with game two back at home at the Annex on Saturday at 6:05 p.m., and the series finale on Sunday set for 8:35 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Fans can catch all three games on Thunderbirds TV or on WTOB 980 AM between the Thunderbirds and River Dragons with the voice of the Thunderbirds, Brendan Reilly, on the call.