Sweep Caroline! Thunderbirds On To The Commissioner's Cup Finals
Winston-Salem, NC - It took another gritty effort and a one-goal game but the Carolina Thunderbirds came away with the win and swept the Port Huron Prowlers on Saturday night 3-2.
The scoring was opened at the 15:11 mark of the first period when Michael Bunn took a 100-foot pass from Karel Drahorad attempted a spin-o-rama and was checked by Marvin Powell. Bunn used his momentum to spin Powell away and fed a beautiful feed to the wide open Jay Croop who buried it for his second goal of the playoffs.
The scoring ended there in the first period but tensions continued to rise between the two teams who were even in shots after 20 minutes 8-8.
Port Huron would equalize through Alex Johnson who flung a puck in through a screened Christian Pavlas for a 1-1 hockey game.
Later in the second the Michael Bunn show continued with not one but two goals, the first of which came on a shot from the left circle that beat Paulinto the 5-hole. Then with less than two minutes to go in the second Bunn picked up a puck from the right circle, made a cut move around a defender and slid it past the outstretched pad of Paulin to make it 3-1.
The second period would end with the Thunderbirds on a parade to the sin bin and the Prowlers having 1:14 of 5-on-3 time to begin the third on a fresh sheet of ice.
Those two penalties were killed off by Carolina (who went 7-7 on the PK tonight) and gave the crowd some more life at the Annex.
That life was squashed midway through when Matt Graham scored a highlight reel goal with a deke through a defender and a five-hole shot on Christian Pavlas that brought the game back to within one.
With tensions rising both teams energy was through the roof. Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds this meant a few more penalties as in the last 4 minutes of the game, they found themselves down a man for 2:30 of the last four minutes.
Carolina's PK remained perfect throughout the night and sealed the win with great defense and booked their first ever trip to the Commissioner's Cup finals where they will take on the Elmira Enforcers in a best-of-5 series.
Christian Pavlas stopped 29 of 31 shots for the win, Chris Paulin stopped 26 of 29 in the loss.
The Thunderbirds host the Enforcers for games 1 and 2 Friday and Saturday night next weekend at the Fairgrounds Annex. Tickets on sale at the Fairgrounds Box Office or by searching Carolina Thunderbirds on TicketMaster.
Three Stars of the Game