by Zak DeBeaussaert

Columbus, GA - Columbus, GA - The Carolina Thunderbirds finished a sweep of 3 wins and 8 points from the Columbus River Dragons after a 7-5 victory on Sunday night.

Dawson Baker tallied the first goal of the game on the power play with a left circle shot past Jared Rutledge to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead at the 8:22 mark. Daniel Martin added to the Carolina lead at the 16:33 mark with an unassisted even strength goal that bounced awkwardly behind the back boards and landed in front of the net and was tapped in to make it 2-0. 

Less than a minute later, Marquis Grant-Mentis put the River Dragons on the board with a quick goal assisted by Hunter Bersani and Austin Daae at the 17:24 mark, cutting the lead to 2-1. That goal was Grant-Mentis' 3rd of the year and 10th point on the season. Edgars Ozolinsh tied things up at two with a rebound goal from a Josh Pietrantonio shot at the 18:17 mark of the first period.

At the start of the second it was deja vu as Dawson Baker scored his second of the night 4:17 into the frame, going 5 hole on Rutledge after he as left all alone in front to give Carolina a 3-2 lead. John Buttitta added to the Carolina momentum with a goal at the 7:32 mark assisted by Tommy Cardinal and Gus Ford to increase to lead to 4-2. 

Dalton Anderson knocked a puck out of the air from Levi Armstrong at the 11:29 mark to cut the Thunderbirds’ lead to 4-3.

Cameron Dimmitt extended the Carolina lead at the 18:50 mark of the second period with an even strength goal from the left circle that found the top right corner from distance to give Carolina another two-goal advantage.

In the third period it took until more than halfway through the frame to find another goal but tit went to the River Dragons. Jake Huss scored during a scramble around the Carolina crease at the 12:50 mark of the third period, cutting the lead to 5-4, then Austin Daae tied things up sniping the top right corner at the 17:37 mark to tie the game at 5-5.

Overtime loomed, but Carolina had other plans. Off of a rush, Rutledge made an initial save and the puck sat free for Gus Ford to lift over the down goaltender and give Carolina the lead again at the 19:16 mark. Daniel Martin sealed the fate of the game with an empty netter with 16 seconds left, and the game finished 7-5 in favor of Carolina. 

Brandon Rozzi gets his first win as a Thunderbird with 31 saves on the night. Jared Rutledge takes the loss with 25 saves on 32 shots.

Columbus now gets ready to take on the Port Huron Prowlers for a two-game set at the Columbus Civic Center next weekend. Both puck drops at 7:30.