Thunderbirds complete weekend sweep with 7-5 win over River Dragons
Columbus, GA – For the first time in the 2021-2022 season, the Carolina Thunderbirds swept a three-game weekend series. Led by a pair of goals from Dawson Baker, Sunday night’s 7-5 win was an exclamation point to close the weekend against Columbus.
After Chris Paulin’s consecutive starts on Friday and Saturday night, Brandon Rozzi occupied the Carolina goal crease for the first time on Sunday. In just his second FPHL start, Rozzi had to be strong early on as the River Dragons began the 1st period with an onslaught of shots. Midway through a scoreless first period, a too many men penalty sent Carolina to its first powerplay of the evening. With the man-advantage, Dawson Baker picked up exactly where he left off Saturday night. Receiving a pass from Cameron Dimmitt, Baker blasted a shot past Jared Rutledge from the left faceoff circle to open the scoring.
Minutes later, the Thunderbirds found themselves on the right side of some puck luck. A Daniel Martin shot would deflect off the back boards high into the air. Jared Rutledge missed the puck as he tried to bat it back behind the net, allowing Martin to poke the puck between Rutledge’s legs for the 2-0 lead. Carolina held the lead despite being heavily outshot for the majority of the period. But as time wound down, a pair of goal crease scrambles resulted in goals for Marquis Grant-Mentis and Edgars Ozolins. The goals came just moments apart, and the Thunderbirds went into the first intermission with a 2-2 tie.
In the second period, the Thunderbirds continued their offensive push. Dawson Baker would score his second of the night, snapping a shot between the legs of Rutledge for a 3-2 lead. Tommy Cardinal picked up an assist on that goal, as well as the one that followed. Skating down the right wing, Cardinal pulled the puck around two defenders, slipped between them, and dished it over to John Buttitta for a tap-in goal. Dalton Anderson countered with a Columbus goal midway through the period, but Cameron Dimmitt’s seeing-eye shot from the boards beat Rutledge high for fa 5-3 lead after 40 minutes.
It simply would not be a Carolina-Columbus game without some 3rd period theatrics, and Sunday was no exception. A buried rebound from Jake Huss and a snipe of the rush from Austin Daae tied the game at 5-5 with less than three minutes in regulation. The Thunderbirds remained unphased however, continuing to push offensively. Tim Perks slipped past a defender down the left-wing boards and threw the puck towards the net. After Tommy Cardinal was stopped by Rutledge, Gus Ford chipped the rebound into the net, securing a 6-5 lead.
After a desperate last stand in the defensive zone, Daniel Martin poked the puck past Adam Vanelli at the center point and skated the empty-net goal all the way down the ice.
The 7-5 final marked Carolina’s 5th consecutive victory. This season, the Thunderbirds have won five games in the Columbus Civic Center and are the only team to beat the River Dragons at home. They now turn their attention to next weekend’s three-game series against the second place Danbury Hat Tricks. Puck drop next Friday night in Danbury is set for 7:00pm.