by Dillon Clark
Winston-Salem, NC – In a back-and-forth affair, the Carolina Thunderbirds defeated the Watertown Wolves for the first time this season, 6-5, in a shootout. The game reached the shootout after John Buttitta’s tying late 3rd period goal pushed the game beyond regulation.
Carolina and Watertown had done battle five so far this season, with the Wolves taking every game in regulation. With his appearance in Friday night’s game, Thunderbirds defenseman Jiri Pestuka tied the franchise record for games played at 137, previously held by Jan Salak.
Looking to bounce back from a three-game slide, Carolina came out swinging against the top team in the FPHL. Everett Thompson collected the puck on along the right-wing boards, skating it into the offensive zone. After getting spun around by a defenseman, he was able to make a crisp back-door pass to Declan Conway, who opened the scoring with his 4th of the season.
Watertown didn’t stay down for long, after strong puck movement and a deflection by Ahmed Mahfouz tied the game just two minutes later. With Alexander Jmaeff in the penalty box for cross-checking, the Carolina powerplay went right to work. After a Gus Ford shot pinballed around in front, Tommy Cardinal cashed in to reclaim the lead. Defensive mistakes cost Carolina a pair of goals later in the period, with Rocco Dicostanzo and Colin Chmelka reversing the tide for Watertown. The Wovles carried a 3-2 lead into the first intermission.
Playing in his first game with Carolina, defenseman Jarrett Meyer wasted little time endearing himself to the fans in Winston-Salem. Following a play into the offensive zone, Meyer ripped a shot off the crossbar and into the net, tying the game at 3-3. Six minutes later, John Buttitta cleaned up a rebound in front to grab another Carolina lead. After starting the period down by one, the Thunderbirds ended 40 minutes of play up 4-3.
Larry Yellowknee sucked the air out of the Fairgrounds Annex with an early 3rd period goal, beating Chris Paulin short side to tie the game. The game remained a deadlock until the final five minutes, when Justin MacDonald rifled a shot past Paulin for the 5-4 lead. With the outcome of the game in doubt, Ryan Devine picked up a slashing penalty with little more than two minutes left in the game. The Thunderbirds failed to convert on the powerplay, but John Buttitta cleaned up a rebound with 22.4 on the clock to tie the game, 5-5.
A Troy Taylor hooking minor sent Carolina to the powerplay in overtime, but the Thunderbirds failed to convert. Despite outshooting the Wolves 4-1 in overtime, Carolina still couldn’t find the back of the net. The game would require Carolina’s second shootout of the season.
After Cameron Dimmitt, Alexander Jmaeff, and Cole McKechney failed to convert in the shootout, Gus Ford stepped into the spotlight. He snapped a shot low to the glove of Chris Marsillo, giving the Thunderbirds the lead in the shootout. It proved to be the shootout winner, after a pair of saves by Chris Paulin and three Wolves shots hit the goal post.
The win is Carolina’s first against Watertown this season and snaps a three-game losing streak.