WYTHEVILLE BOBCATS at CAROLINA THUNDERBIRDS
Big Second Period Spurs Thunderbirds to 4-1 Victory
Ford nets a pair while Cavaliere stops 27 shots in Opening Night win
by Brendan Reilly
Winston-Salem, NC - After trailing by a goal after 20 minutes in the 2023-24 Home Opener, the Carolina Thunderbirds used four unanswered goals to skate by the Blue Ridge Bobcats, 4-1, Saturday night at the Annex.
Blue Ridge (1-4-1) quieted the sold-out crowd in Winston-Salem in the first period. Hunter Hall, who had the lone goal for Blue Ridge the night before, sneaked a wrist shot by Carolina (3-1-0) netminder Mario Cavaliere to take a 1-0 advantage.
The visitors held the advantage at the first intermission, but after Bobcats goalie Christian Pavlas was called for a two-minute minor, the Thunderbirds started the second period on the man advantage. It didn’t take long for reigning FPHL MVP Gus Ford to make an impact.
With the power play almost over, Roman Kraemer sent a pass across the crease where Ford was waiting for a tap-in goal to tie the game at one. Nearly 90 seconds later, captain Jon Buttitta took a deflected pass and gloved it down in the neutral zone to spur a breakaway where he deked out Pavlas giving the Thunderbirds the lead, and the lead for good, 2-1.
With the home crowd back in it and steady pressure, Carolina returned to the power play and Ford again made the Bobcats pay. After a shot from the point was knocked down in front, the forward found it from the left dot and slotted home his second of the night, extending the lead to two, 3-1.
After the second Ford goal, Carolina found one more at the 18:48 mark of the second period when Dominic Dumas snapped one past Pavlas for his first career professional goal. Assisting was Jordan Popoff who also picked up his first career point.
With a three-goal lead, the Thunderbirds locked down Blue Ridge in the third and cruised to a 4-1 victory.
With the two goals, Ford was named the 1st star of the game. Buttitta’s breakaway goal earned him the 2nd Star while Cavaliere was the 3rd star of the evening.
The Thunderbirds swept the home-and-home set with Blue Ridge and came away with six points on the weekend. Carolina currently has nine points across four games and head to Binghamton next Friday for a two-game set with the Binghamton Black Bears. Puck drop on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bobcats Drop Weekend Series Against Thunderbirds
by Brett Wiseman
Winston-Salem, NC - Despite a valiant comeback effort in the third period, the Blue Ridge Bobcats fell to the Carolina Thunderbirds by a score of 4-1 for the second straight night.
Hunter Hall continued his hot offensive start to the season, muscling a tight angle shot through the five-hole of Carolina goaltender Mario Cavaliere at the 8;55 mark of the opening frame. Hall's fifth goal of the season, with assists from Josh Newberg and Dominic Matonach gave the Bobcats a 1-0 lead that they carried into the second period.
Blue Ridge was mired by penalties in the second period, giving up a pair of power play goals to reigning league MVP Gus Ford. Jon Buttitta and Dominic Dumas added the other two middle frame markers for the Thunderbirds.
Connor Green came in net in relief of Christian Pavlas, who had stopped 26 of 30 Carolina shots through the first 40 minutes. Green was spectacular, stopping all 9 shots he faced with the majority being on high-danger scoring chances.
Green kept the Bobcats in the game, and Blue Ridge generated a wealth of scoring chances in the third but could not get the puck to bounce in their favor.
The Bobcats return home to the Apex Center next weekend for a two game tilt with the Mississippi Sea Wolves. Friday night's game begins at 7:30, and tickets are available at blueridgebobcats.com/tickets.