Game Recap for 4/17/21



by Zak DeBeaussaert

Columbus, GA - The Columbus River Dragons opened the floodgates on the Port Huron Prowlers winning 11-5 and thanks to results elsewhere, clinched the 2021 regular season championship.

Columbus started the scoring early and often in this one. Nick Mangone on the first shift of the game scored two goals within the game's opening 26 seconds. The first of which came on a slick passing play from MJ Graham and Gehrett Sargis, the second an unassisted goal on a drive to the net. Minutes later, Connor Fries made Columbus' lead 3-0 after he collected his own rebound and put it home.

Port Huron's Dalton Jay made it 3-1 with a shorthanded goal 5:22 into the period, sniping the top-left corner on Jacob Caffrey. Columbus was unfazed though as 27 seconds later MJ Graham went 5-hole for his first goal of the year. Then it was Port Huron's turn to not blink, as within 28 seconds of Graham's goal, Alex Johnson scored on a breakaway to make it 4-2.

The end-to-end action wasn't over though, 16 seconds after it was 4-2, Connor Fries found the back of the net again and the score read 5-2 with only 6:33 gone in the first period.

The goal-per-minute pace kept up as MJ Graham buried his second goal of the game at the 8:33 mark to make it 6-2 and chase Nick Niedert out of the game to be replaced by Blake Scott. Dalton Jay then found his second goal of the game on a centering feed from Yianni Liarakos to make it 6-3 with still more than half of the first period to go.

At this point the game began to calm down offensively but one more strike from Austin Daae made the first period look like a football score 7-3 through 20 minutes of play.

In the second period, Columbus continued to pile on with goals as Daae tapped one in from in front with just under 16 minutes to go in the 2nd. Then with eight seconds left in the frame Chase Fallis got a backdoor pass from Connor Fries to make the game 9-3 through 40 minutes.

In the third period, Columbus and Port Huron traded goals to get the game to its final scoreline.

First, it was Jay Croop receiving a nice pass from Nick Mangone to get Columbus into double digits. Port Huron drew back with an odd bounce goal off of Thomas Munichiello and in halfway through the period. Columbus then made it 11 when Mangone fed Mac Jansen for the River Dragons' 11th goal of the game. With about 40 seconds left in the game Matt Graham ended the scoring spree for both teams making the game 11-5.

With about two minutes left in the game, Blake Scott vacated the crease after giving up the 11th goal and Nick Niedert returned to see his final pro game out from between the pipes, a massive sign of respect for a man who has given so much to pro minor hockey (800+ games dressed across 9 different minor leagues). After the game Prowlers and River Dragons skated over to Niedert's crease to show their respect.

Jacob Caffrey gets the win tonight with 16 saves on 21 shots. Nick Niedert took the loss with 6 saves on 12 shots, in relief Blake Scott had 34 saves on the night.

The River Dragons and Prowlers conclude their season on Sunday night at the Civic Center. The pregame show starts at 5:00 on WTVM Bounce 9.2 for a 5:35 puck drop. Tickets available at the Civic Center Box Office or on TicketMaster.

Three Stars of the Game

Nick Mangone

MJ Graham

Connor Fries


Carolina Drops Elmira In Hard Fought Battle, 4-2 

by Jonathan Kliment

Fresh off clinching their berth to the 2021 Ignite Cup Final just a night ago, Elmira returned to the ice to square off with their rivals from the south in the second of a regular season-ending three-in-three set. Carolina was officially eliminated from playoff contention with their 7-6 overtime victory a night ago, however, came back set to play for pride while looking to spoil the Enforcers' chances at the #1 seed and home-ice advantage.

The 1st period saw plenty of offensive chances for both sides, but nobody was able to capitalize and a 0-0 tie was taken to the room after 20 minutes of play.

Carolina entered into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 break and after Dillon Kelley denied the initial shot by Petr Panacek, Fred Hein scooped up the loose puck and lit the lamp just 96 seconds into the 2nd Period to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead. Petr Panacek and Fred Hein would again pair up to net the visitors' second goal of the evening. Panacek glided a puck from behind the cage of Kelley out to Fred Hein at the point, and he snapped one off that went in top shelf to double the Carolina advantage 2-0. Elmira cracked the board for the first time in the game when Mitch Atkins fed Steve Leonard on the left post of Paulin. Leonard sent a beauty past with 10:27 to go in the frame to cut the deficit to just 2-1 in favor of the Thunderbirds. The Enforcers weren't going to give up yet. Brandon Tucker yanked one off the right-wing wall and stretched it ahead to Tyler Gjurich who faked forehand before backhanding it up and by Chris Paulin with 4:08 left in the second frame to knot it up 2-2. The tie would carry the two squads to the room.

A turnover behind the goal line by the shorthanded Enforcers defense forced Zach White's hand to stroll in and grab the rubber. White buried it to the back of the net from the dead angle on Kelley's blocker side to vault the Thunderbirds back out on top 3-2 just :21 into the third frame. Carolina controlled a draw in their own end off to the left of Paulin and raced it down the ice and after a flurry of movements, Tommy Tsicos found the puck on his stick. Tsicos slung one to Zach White up the middle, where White then buried the puck to pull the lead to 4-2 Thunderbirds. Carolina was able to hold on to the two-goal advantage and the 4-2 score was how this one wrapped up.

Dillon Kelley flipped away 32 of 36 shots in his second regulation loss of the year.

The Enforcers close out the regular season with one final matchup against the Carolina Thunderbirds tomorrow at 1:05pm. Get your tickets now by calling (607) 734-PUCK, stopping by the box office, or tune in for all the action live on YouTube and Mixlr.