by Zak DeBeaussaert
Columbus, GA - The River Dragons won the weekend and set themselves up for a weekend sweep in front of a packed Columbus Civic Center on Saturday night, defeating the Delaware Thunder 5-2.
The crowd of 6,155 were none too pleased with the game's opening minute as Brandon Lucchesi tapped home a centering feed from Yianni Liarakos to give Delaware a 1-0 lead 33 seconds into the game.
The River Dragons would answer back on the power play with Ian White sniping the top left corner tying the game at one at the 5:36 mark of the opening period.
With the shots even at 10 and the game tied at one, Columbus asserted their dominance in the second period and it started early. Josh Pietrantonio set the tone with a goal just 37 seconds in off a deflection from an Edgars Ozolinsh shot, giving Columbus a 2-1 lead. MJ Graham added to the Columbus momentum at the 3:07 mark with a goal assisted by Marquis Grant-Mentis extending the lead to 3-1. 30 seconds after Graham’s goal Justin Schmit and Ned Simpson got into a lively tilt that enthused the Columbus crowd and both players were handed down fighting penalties.
Those early goals in the second held up to make the game 3-1 through 40 minutes. The Dragons outshot the Thunder 21-4 in the period.
Jake Grade was the first to tally a goal in the final period of play with a power play goal at the 9:14 mark finding the 5-hole of Greg Harney and assisted by Hunter Bersani, giving Columbus a 4-1 lead.
A brawl broke out behind the Columbus net that resulted in multiple penalties on both teams. For Delaware, Alex Basey, Joey Bernard, and Brandon Tootoosis picked up roughing penalties. For Columbus, Marquis Grant-Mentis picked up a roughing penalty and Jay Croop picked up an abuse of officials match penalty. The resulting man power strength was 4-on-4 with Delaware getting a three minute major power play after the initial two minutes.
While Delaware could do nothing with that advantage Marc-Antoine Brouillette drew one back for Delaware to make the score 4-2 in favor of Columbus.
Delaware opted to pull the netminder with less than a minute to go and Ian White ended the game with an empty net goal at the buzzer to make the final score 5-2.
Bailey MacBurnie takes the win with 17 saves on 19 shots, Greg Harney suffers the loss making 37 save son 41 shots he faced.
Columbus and Delaware finish out their three in three with a super Sunday showdown at the Civic Center. A 1:00 puck drop means a 12:30 pregame show on the Columbus River Dragons broadcast network.