Thunderbirds cap home schedule with Baker’s OT winner

Winston-Salem, NC – With yet another overtime winner, Dawson Baker led the Carolina Thunderbirds past the Port Huron Prowlers on Friday night. With the win, the Thunderbirds closed out their regular season home schedule with their 19th win in Winston-Salem.

The Thunderbirds picked up where they left off against Delaware on Wednesday, snapping pucks toward the net and challenging Cory Simons early. They finally broke through late in the period, as a Joe Cangelosi wrist shot escaped Simons’ glove. For Cangelosi, the goal was his first since October 30th, and gave the Thunderbirds a much-needed head start. Thanks to 19 saves from Chris Paulin, Carolina slipped into the first intermission with the 1-0 lead.

After running into some penalty trouble late in the first, the Thunderbirds began the second period shorthanded. It took only 14 seconds for Larri Vartiainen to rocket a one-time shot past Chris Paulin and tie the game. The Prowlers continued to pepper Paulin in the period, sending 20 shots his way. The Thunderbird goaltender held his ground, at one point stacking the pads to rob Matt Graham cutting down the right wing. Vartiainen’s powerplay goal stood as the only one of the period, and the Prowlers ended 40 minutes of play on their own terms.

It took only 42 seconds of the third period for Evan Foley to beat Chris Paulin past the blocker, giving the Prowlers their first lead of the game. Both teams continued their parade to the penalty box, but it was Carolina who became opportunistic on the man advantage. Daniel Martin threw a shot to the net from long range, and Jacob Schnapp nudged it to Blake Peavey while falling. Peavey’s 14th goal of the season burned Simons past the glove and tied the game at 2-2. Just for minutes later, Gus Ford joined the scoring fray. Darting down the left wing, Ford held off the stick of Matt Graham, threw a head fake and snapped a shot past Simons’ glove for the 3-2 lead. Just days after being the first Thunderbird to 40 goals, Ford notched number 41. A late penalty by Jiri Pestuka sent Port Huron to the powerplay, and Austin Fetterly’s one-timer sent the game into overtime. Through regulation, the two teams combined for 38 penalty minutes.

The Prowlers began overtime by killing off an Alex Johnson high-sticking penalty. Carolina continued the assault, sending nine shots toward Simons in the extra period. Dawson Baker found himself open in the left-wing circle, caught a pass from Jiri Pestuka, and fired a shot over the right shoulder of Simons to win the game. The goal was Baker’s 19th of the season, and fourth game-winning goal of his Thunderbirds career.

Chris Paulin finished the night with 50 saves, and Baker coupled an assist with his OT winner for first star honors. The Thunderbirds close the regular season with games in Columbus, Danbury, and Binghamton in the following week. After a Saturday off, they head down to play the River Dragons on Sunday at 4:30pm.