CAROLINA THUNDERBIRDS at MOTOR CITY ROCKERS
Carolina Staves Off Motor City, Earns 5-3 Win
by Ben Szilagy
Fraser, MI - After winning on Friday night, the Rockers couldn’t pull off a weekend sweep against the Carolina Thunderbirds.
Carolina scored two goals in the third period, and held off a 6-on-5 rush in the last 1:09 to walk out of Michigan with a 5-3 win on Saturday night.
The Thunderbirds (31-9-2) was able to get on the board first thanks to a power play with 7:38 to play in the first period.
John Buttitta held the puck along the nearside boards, and gave it up to the point where Joe Kennedy was waiting. Kennedy quickly slid the puck to Dawson Baker on the nearside. Baker walked the puck down into the nearside circle and fired the puck top shelf on a screened Trevor Babin for a 1-0 lead.
Motor City (22-14-6) was able to tie the game at 1-1 off the stick of Tommy Cardinal with 9:05 to play in the first period.
The puck was cleared by the Thunderbirds to Babin who secured it. He left it for (blank) at the end line who fired a stretch pass to Tommy Cardinal at center ice. Cardinal walked the puck down the far side boards and moved into the slot for a back hand for his 16th of the season.
Carolina regained the lead 8:26 into the second period.
Baker controlled the puck along the far side wall and moved it to Buttitta. Buttitt had eyes on the back of his head as he passed the puck to a crashing Josh Koepplinger in the slot. Koepplinger fired the puck to the top-shelf past Babin for a 2-1 lead.
Motor City struggled to get back into the game until Cardinal was able to take advantage of Boris Babik being out of position.
Babik made two incredible saves, and was getting up to his seat to make another when Cardinal found the puck on his stick and fired the puck over Babik’s head and under the crossbar for his 17th of the season, for his second of the game. The Rockers and Carolina were tied at 2-2 with 1:52 left in the second period.
It took until the third period for the Rockers to gain a lead as it was chasing goals all night long, but to get the lead took a moment of seconds.
14-seconds in the final frame, the puck was fired in off the stick of Dante Suffredini and was turned away by Babik. During a scramble in front of the net, Connor Inger put in the rebound for a 3-2 lead.
Carolina found a way to not only tie the score, but take the lead with its suffocating forecheck.
As Motor City was working to clear the zone, there was a gratuitous giveaway in front of the net that landed on the stick of Justin Pringle. Pringle gathered it in between the hashes and tied the score at 3-3 with 16:14 to play.
Two minutes later Joe Kennedy went to work on the blue line and kept the puck in the offensive zone. Kennedy worked the puck down low after taking the long way around and centered the puck to Jan Salak. Salak fired the puck and the rebound bounced to a recovering Kennedy on the far side for a goal and a 4-3 lead.
Butittia earned an empty net goal, 5-3, during Motor City's last final push with 1:09 left in the game.
After the split at home, Motor City has to rebound quickly as it hosts the top team in the Continental Division in the Columbus RiverDragons for a three game series. Games will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased on mcrockershockey.com/tickets.