Thunderbirds take down River Dragons on the road, 7-5

COLUMBUS, Ga.- The Carolina Thunderbirds, proud members of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, earned three points vs. the Columbus River Dragons after a 7-5 win in the Civic Center on Saturday Night.

“You know, we scored, we made plays. I’m proud of the boys,” said head coach Andre Niec.

Things did not start off well for Carolina though as Chase Fallis opened the scored just 1:24 into the game for the River Dragons, who were wearing Columbus Cottonmouths throwbacks on Saturday. It’s Fallis’s ninth goal of the season.

Late in the first, Carolina’s Jan Krivohlavek would get his first of two on the weekend after Tim Santapaolo turned the puck over. Krivohlavek’s goal was assisted by Jon Buttitta and Jiri Pargac, both who had multi-point nights.

The second period was filled with offense as Carolina took control. Buttitta gave the Thunderbirds the lead just 5:07 into the second period and then Petr Panacek added his 25th of the year on a 5-on-3 powerplay.

Columbus answered when Will Laporte notched his third of the season, jamming the puck short-side on Thunderbirds starter Michal Marcinek. Jan Salak potted his 24th of the year to answer less than three minutes later.

Cameron Dimmitt scored on a empty net just beyond the midway point of the second period when Marcinek lost the steel out of his skate pushing across the crease to make a save. Marcniek would leave the game because of the equipment issue, with Kelly Curl taking control. Marcinek made nine saves on 12 shots.

“It was tough,” said Marcinek, “I have never had that happen and it is frustrating.”

Curl immediately made a strong save on top of his goal crease and would get offensive support when Jan Krivohlavek scored on a backdoor pass from Buttitta.

In the third period, Columbus struck just 44 seconds in with former Hampton Roads Whaler Jacob Gerson potting a rebound.

Back came Carolina, with Daniel Klinecky scoring a short-handed breakaway goal, beating Cody Karpinski five-hole to make it 6-4.

Buttitta added his 22nd of the season two minutes later.

At the midway point of the third period, Columbus defenseman Edgars Ozolins railroaded Curl attempting to score a rebound. Failing to stop before contacting the goalie, Ozolins would receive a five-minute major for charging and was subsequently ejected.

Chad Herron and Yianni Liarakos were also given the heave-ho after Liarakos grabbed Herron and forced him into a fight. Daniel Martin and Chase Fallis also dropped the gloves in the altercation, with Martin tackling Fallis in a two-person rivalry that spans the last two seasons.

Later in the third period, Jay Croop was called for a penalty after the whistle and proceeded to launch pucks from the ice-filled bucket that held them over the glass. In the tantrum, Croop also sent a water bottle and eventually the actual bucket of pucks over the glass.

M.J. Graham scored his 24th of the year with just five seconds remaining as the Carolina Thunderbirds skated away with a 7-5 victory.

“Felt good, man,” said Curl after logging his first win of the season, “boys played well in front and was grateful for the chance to go in and give the guys a chance to win.”

The Thunderbirds improve to 4-1-0-1 vs. Columbus all-time and now have 32 wins on the season. Columbus sinks to 18-20-6-1, two games below .500 in regulation.

The weekend’s rubber match will be in Winston-Salem on Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m.