Carolina Dominant in 18th Straight
By Zak DeBeaussaert
Winston-Salem, NC - The Carolina Thunderbirds increased their winning streak to 18 with a dominant 7-2 win over the Mentor Ice Breakers on Friday night in front of a sold out crowd at the Fairgrounds Annex.
Carolina got on the board first with Michael Bunn tallying his seventh goal of the season on a one-timer set up by Joe Cangelosi from behind the net. Bunn played up in more of a forward's role in this game after being played mainly as a defenseman so far this season. The Ice Breakers would respond later in the frame with Joe Swenson banking one in off the far post after a clean faceoff win by Patrick Porkka. That goal would quickly be overshadowed by a power play tally by Petr Panacek just 2:12 later. Panacek picked up a loose puck after a deflection by Dominik Fejt went unseen by Mentor goalie Derek Moser who was left out of position while Panacek slid it home. The first period would end with a 2-1 scoreline in favor of Carolina.
The team talk that was delivered by Head Coach Andre Niec must have had the Thunderbirds thinking they were on the wrong end of the score because Carolina came out firing all period long in the second. Just 45 seconds into the middle frame Josh Pietrantonio made a heads up pass on the backdoor to Jan Salak that went through many different pairs of legs for Salak to have a wide open net to throw the puck into to make it 3-1. The game settled down a bit after that early goal, but Carolina kept up the forecheck and offensive zone pressure and got another goal through Viktor Grebennikov. Returning to the Thunderbirds after time away with his family, he scored in his first game back to make it 4-1. Salak added his second of the game to make it 5-1 just minutes later. After the second Salak goal there was a decent scrap between Vaughn Clouston and Mike Baker which resulted in both men sitting out five minutes for fighting. The sellout crowd couldn't contain themselves at this point, seeing a great physical effort by Salak to get his second goal and then immediately seeing a fight between two solid combatants. The Thunderbirds would keep feeding off that energy from the crowd of 3,000+, and Jay Kenney fired a rocket between the legs of Moser late in the period to make it 6-1 going into the locker room. Unfortunately, it wasn't all good vibes, as Grebennikov suffered a leg injury after catching an edge near the half boards in his own zone. He would not return for the third period and his status is currently unknown at this time.
With the scoreline getting ugly, the game turned physical. The Thunderbirds found themselves down two men to the Ice Breakers at one point in the third period. Mentor would capitalize on this with Thomas Devesvre scoring on a snipe from the left circle that Carolina goalie Christian Pavlas couldn't get to in time. Carolina would add one more for good measure with Josh Pietrantonio scoring shorthanded on a play set up by Jiri Pestuka from behind the net 50 seconds after the Devesvre goal. That gave the game its final 7-2 scoreline and saw the Thunderbirds win for the 18th time in a row.
Carolina and Mentor both now look ahead to a Saturday date at the Fairgrounds Annex with a 6:05 PM puck drop. The Pregame Show on the Carolina Thunderbirds Radio Network starts at 5:40 PM.
3 Stars of the Game:
Photo credit: V. Khouri