Thunderbirds fall to Port Huron, 4-3, despite late push
Winston-Salem, NC – Though the Thunderbirds began the night celebrating franchise icon Jay Kenney, they finished it in disappointment. A late push wasn’t enough to truly break back into the contest, as they dropped their first game to the Prowlers at home this season.
As Jay Kenney’s #17 jersey was the first Thunderbirds number to be retired, Cody Oakes fired the first Carolina goal into the back of the net Friday night. The Aurora, Colorado native found himself up on the wing after playing most of the season on defense, and it paid immediate dividends. Oakes flicked a wrist shot past the glove of Cory Simons for the 1-0 lead midway through the first period. The Prowlers found their way back into the game earlier in the game than they did Thursday, as Alex Johnson tied the game with 30 seconds left in the 1st period.
Port Huron really asserted themselves early in the 2nd period. After Joe Cangelosi was ejected in the first period from an altercation with Alex Johnson, Sam Merit buried the powerplay goal just seconds into the period. Matt Graham followed up by driving the net for a goal eight minutes later, and former Thunderbird Ross Bartlett scored his first as a Prowler to make it 4-1. Gus Ford supplied immediate relief for Carolina by snapping a shot low to the blocker of Simons to stop the bleeding. Ford’s 34th of the campaign brought the Thunderbirds into the second intermission trailing 4-2.
The 3rd period began with a stronger Carolina push. Cade Lambdin picked up a slashing penalty prior to a faceoff, sending the Thunderbirds to the powerplay. Gus Ford found a spot over the right shoulder of Simons from an impossible angle, bringing the game to within one. Though Carolina had a pair of powerplay chances to end regulation, including a brief 5-on3 where they pulled their goalie, the comeback fell just short. Port Huron clinched a playoff spot with the 4-3 victory.
The Thunderbirds and Prowlers will tangle one more time this weekend. A 6:05 puck drop on Saturday night will serve as the rubber match between two rivals.