Thunderbirds continue to struggle, fall to Columbus 3-1

Columbus, GA— The Carolina Thunderbirds took to the road for the first time this season, losing to the Columbus River Dragons, 3-1, on Friday night. In the game that served as their home opener, Columbus raised their 2021 Ignite Cup Championship banner.

For the first time this season, the Thunderbirds surrendered the game’s first goal. From below the goal line, Hunter Bersani threw a puck into the slot, off a defender’s skate and behind Nick Modica just 2:11 into the game. Midway through the period, Columbus’ Jay Croop would drop the gloves with David Nicoletti just inside the Thunderbirds zone. The two wouldn’t quite get a full fight off, so both were assessed two for roughing. On the ensuing four on four, Vaughn Clouston would collect the puck on a broken play, stride into the zone and bury it behind Jared Rutledge. Later in the period, Joe Cangelosi and Levi Armstong would drop the gloves in the game’s only true fight.

The second period brought a back-and-forth, plodding pace of play. There were few high-quality opportunities, but Robert Vanwynsberghe’s 1st goal of the season tilted the ice in Columbus’ favor. The River Dragons would take two penalties in close succession, but the Carolina powerplay failed to convert. Columbus would outshoot Carolina 10-9 in the frame.

Columbus really began to exert its dominance in the third period, outshooting the Thunderbirds 18-7. Hunter Bersani would set up Trevor Finch’s first FPHL goal at the 11 minute mark, putting the River Dragons ahead by a pair. Neither team could convert on the man advantage during the game, with Columbus going 0/3. Carolina would fail to convert on any of their five powerplay opportunities, allowing the River Dragons penalty kill to remain perfect on the season. Jared Rutledge would finish the night with 24 saves on 25 shots.

Carolina and Columbus will return to the Columbus Civic Center ice tomorrow night at 7:30.