Carolina Holds on for 15th Straight Win
By Zak DeBeaussaert
Winston-Salem, NC - The Carolina Thunderbirds franchise record winning streak survived a couple of scares Saturday night, but a sellout crowd helped propel them en route to a 5-4 win over the Danville Dashers.
Danville opened the scoring just 1:22 into the game when Nathan Pelligra came right down the middle and froze Carolina netminder Frankie McClendon with a fake shot before a deke to the left saw him bury it in the net for a 1-0 Danville lead. Carolina would respond later in the period with Chase Fallis banging home a rebound given up by Danville goalie Matt Kaludis. At the break, Carolina and Danville were tied in a back and forth affair.
The second period saw the tug of war continue, and it was newly acquired Thunderbird Matt Baker who scored and broke the early tie. Baker took a pass from Josh Pietrantonio from behind the net and one-timed it past Kaludis to give Carolina their first lead of the night. Danville would not be silenced though, as Justin Brausen picked up his 13th goal on the year for himself during a 5-on-3 advantage for the Dashers. McClendon was screened well on the play as Brausen put it blocker side. The 2-2 tie would last to the intermission.
It was Danville who jumped out first in the final frame, with Daniel Martin pulling a nice inside-out deke to get around a man and go 5-hole on the goalie to restore Danville's lead. Carolina would dig deep and find an extra gear as they potted the next three goals in the game. Jan Salak fired one home from the top of the right circle after covering for Seth Gustin who got an assist on the play. Later in the period, Chase Fallis tipped in his second of the night as Stan Vlasov set him up back door with a beautiful slap pass. The Thunderbirds' fifth goal would be scored on a major power play after Alex Pommerville was assessed a match penalty for a check to the head against Peter Cicmanec. The goal was score by the newly signed Chase Lewis after a number of deflections in the slot. The Winston-Salem native matched his goal total from last year in just his first game this season. Before the crowd could sing "Sweet Caroline" and welcome in a 15 game winning streak, Nathan Pelligra scored on a laser beam with eight seconds left in the game to make it 5-4 and inject a little worry into the crowd. After a timeout taken by the Thunderbirds, the game would end with Danville never having a sniff of Carolina's zone in the game's dying seconds.
Frankie McClendon stopped 24 of 28 shots in the win, while Matt Kaludis stopped 46 of 51 shots in the loss.
Carolina now looks to host the Watertown Wolves for the first time this season for a two game set next weekend. Friday night is Mascot Mania as we celebrate Winston and Salem's birthday with all of their mascot friends, brought to you by Nothing Bundt Cake. Then Saturday night is Throwback Night, brought to you by WTOB where we honor the proud heritage of Piedmont Triad hockey.
3 Stars of the Game:
Photo credit: V. Khouri