Thunderbirds Take Game 1 In Tense Action-Packed Contest
Port Huron, MI - The Carolina Thunderbirds secured their first playoff victory in franchise history defeating the Port Huron Prowlers in game 1 of the FHL semifinals 5-4.
Carolina struck first late in the first period when Michael Bunn stole the puck from a Port Huron defender in front of the net and in one fell swoop pinged the top-right corner for the game's opening goal.
Bunn's tally was the only goal to speak of in the first period which was in stark contrast to the second period which saw a combined six goals scored between the two teams.
Jiri Pargac would double Carolina's lead about three minutes into the second when he read an Artur Drindrozhik pass across the blue line, jumped it and sprung a 2-on-1 the other way. Pargac was looking net the whole time and roofed it over Chris Paulin's shoulder for a 2-0 lead.
Then in the middle stages of the second period, Port Huron counted themselves lucky not to be down 3-0 by their own hand. Off of a faceoff Ryan Rotondi tried to clear a puck around the boards but ended up putting it off his own crossbar. After a dispute the referees kept with the no goal call and later on the play Christian Pavlas dived at a puck on a breakaway and took a tripping penalty. About 40 seconds later the Thunderbirds went down 5-on-3 when Josh Pietrantonio covered the puck after losing his stick.
Port Huron would respond on both power play opportunities, first Alex Johnson rang one off the near post and in on the 5-on-3. 57 seconds later Matt Robertson was the recipient of a beautiful cross-crease pass that he roofed into the upper netting and before you knew it the game was tied.
During the media timeout for the second period Joe Pace Jr. picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty but off the ensuing faceoff Port Huron cleared the zone and got a fortunate bounce off the kickplate to put the puck in front of the net while Christian Pavlas was attempting to play it behind the net. Dalton Jay hit the two-foot tap-in and it was 3-2 Port Huron.
The Thunderbirds were still on a man advantage and 29 seconds after the bad bounce Petr Panacek put in a goal of his own after being set up by Jiri Pargac across the slot.
Facing a 3-3 tie heading into the locker room the Thunderbirds got the lead back when Jay Croop was set up on a breakaway after a Michael Bunn pass and went forehand-backhand and in for a 4-3 score late in the second period.
To recap, a defensively played first period was mirrored by an offensive display of monumental proportions setting up an anything goes type third period.
The third period mirrored the first in terms of goal output and it took over six minutes into the third but Josh Pietrantonio gave Carolina an insurance goal hitting the water bottle from inside the left circle for a 5-3 lead.
That insurance goal would come in handy as with an extra attacker the Prowlers scored with 16.5 seconds left in the game off a one-timer from Matt Robertson for his second of the game. Carolina would be able to kill off the remaining clock for their first playoff win in franchise history.
Christian Pavlas picked up the win, stopping 23 of 27 shots for his first playoff victory. Chris Paulin was dealt the loss he stopped 36 of 41 shots in this one.
Same two teams go at it for game 2 at 7:05 P.M. at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex. If Carolina wins they're on to the Commissioner's Cup finals. If Port Huron wins there is a winner-take-all game 3 to be played on Sunday afternoon.
Three stars of the game:
Matt Robertson (PTH)
Dalton Jay (PTH)