Thunderbirds Return to the Road After Strong Home Weekend.

Winston-Salem, NC – Thunderbirds Back on the Road After Strong Home Weekend. 

What’s New

Over the Thanksgiving holiday the Carolina Thunderbirds played host to the Watertown Wolves, playing a three game homestand on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of last week. For the Carolina fans there was much to be thankful for, as the hometown team would sweep the series, out-scoring the Wolves by a 19-7 margin over the trio of games.

On Thanksgiving the Thunderbirds would jump out to an early lead, scoring 6 unanswered goals through two periods. It would be the “red” line of Josh Pietrantonio, Jan Salak, and Dominik Synek who would dominate the offensive pressure for the Thunderbirds, combining for 12 points. Synek would score a hattrick and have an assist, while Pietrantonio and Salak would each have a goal and 3 assists in the 7-1 win. Goaltender Cary Byron would make 31 saves in the win for the Thunderbirds.

On Friday it would this time be the Wolves who struck first, when their captain John Scully would score just minutes into the 1st period. The Thunderbirds would respond with a goal in the last minute of the period by Jay Croop. In the 2nd, the Thunderbirds would score two from Michael Bunn and Jan Salak, but the Wolves would add one more from Stephen Gallo to make it 3-2 headed into the 3rd. Once again early in the period the Wolves would strike when Cameron Dimmitt would score, but it would be Carolina taking charge and getting 4 unanswered goals in a penalty-filled 3rd period to eventually win 7-3. Salak, Bunn, Pietrantonio, and Matt Beer would all add goals in the period. Carolina goaltender Kelly Curl would get the win making 35 saves.

On Saturday Carolina would complete the sweep, earning a 5-3 win at home to send the Wolves back home winless. The Thunderbirds would score two quick goals in the 1st, but Watertown’s leading scorer Tyler Gjurich would score a natural hattrick, three goals in a row, to give the Wolves a 3-2 advantage. It would be a timely goal by Michael Bunn late in the 2nd to tie the game up heading into the 3rd. The game winner would be scored at 2:24 of the 3rd, while the Thunderbirds were a man down killing a penalty. Tom Kilgore would steal the puck from the Wolves’ Gjurich and race in all alone, scoring an accurate shot to put the Thunderbirds up by 1. With about 6 minutes remaining in the game it would be Thunderbirds Captain Justin Blaszak scoring to put Carolina up by two. Byron would earn the win yet again, making 29 saves.

Alternate captain for the Thunderbirds, Josh Pietrantonio continued his strong campaign, with 9 points over three games. He is now 2nd in the league in points with 20 total, just 2 behind Gjurich. He also leads the league in assists with 14. Forwards Jan Salak and Tom Kilgore are tied for the league lead with 2 game-winning goals each.

Carolina remains undefeated at home, as well as leading the league in attendance. When you factor in the size of the arenas along with the attendance announced, Carolina is also the top attended professional hockey team in the state of North Carolina based on percentage full. With over 10,000 fans in 5 games, including an opening night sellout, one can draw a clear correlation between the success at home and the effect of the “7th man” of fan support.

What’s Coming Up

The Carolina Thunderbirds Coaches Show continues Tuesday the 28th, from 6-7pm and will be live on location at Mac & Nelli’s, located at 4926 Country Club rd in Winston-Salem. The Coaches’ Show will feature President and General Manager of the Thunderbirds Scott Brand, forward Jay Croop, “Voice of the Thunderbirds” Al Kessler, and Head Coach Andre Niec. Mac & Nelli’s will be offering food and drink specials to Thunderbirds fans during the show, and the event is open to the public. You can also hear the coaches show on the flagship station of the Thunderbirds Radio Network, WTOB, “the Big 980”. Broadcasting on 980 am and 96.3 fm in Winston-Salem, and streaming live online at

What’s Next

This weekend the Thunderbirds will travel to Port Huron to play the Prowlers for the first time this season. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday December 1, 2, and 3, Carolina kicks off a 10 game road trip. Friday and Saturday’s games will start at 7:05 pm EST on the Thunderbirds Radio Network, and Sunday’s game is a 12:35 pm EST start time.

League Standings

(wins-overtime wins- losses- overtime losses, points, winning percentage)

1 – Cornwall: 5-0-1-1, 16 points, .762%

2 – CAROLINA: 7-0-3-1, 22 points, .667%

3 –Danville: 6-0-3-0, 18 points, .667%

4 – Port Huron: 4-0-4-0, 12 points, .500%

5 – Watertown: 2-2-6-0, 10 points, .333%

6 – North Shore: 1-0-8-0, 0 points, .111%

Please note that per Federal Hockey League Rules the standings are decided by winning percentage. Tie breakers are decided by points, followed by wins, followed by head-to-head record, followed by goal differential. In the FHL you are awarded 3 points per win, 2 points for an overtime win, 1 point for an overtime loss, and no points for a regulation loss.