RIVER DRAGONS TAKE GAME 2 OF WEEKEND SERIES; PUT THEMSELVES ON THE BRINK OF PLAYOFF BERTH
by Zak DeBeaussaert
Columbus, GA - The Columbus River Dragons got themselves within one game of the Ignite Cup playoffs with a 5-3 win over the Carolina Thunderbirds on Saturday night.
The Thunderbirds jumped out early in this one, contrary to last night's performance and found themselves with a 2-0 lead before the 11 minute mark of the 1st period. First Fred Hein cashed in on a great tic-tac-toe passing sequence from Jan Salak and Petr Panacek 2:13 in. Then, on a power play opportunity Tommy Tsicos deflected one past Jacob Caffrey on a shot from Josh Koepplinger and Carolina had their first two-goal lead of the series.
Connor Fries would get one back for Columbus with 1:05 left in the frame on a pretty shot off a rebound coughed up by Zack Quinn.
In the second period the teams began to play some ice chess with matching of lines and a defensive struggle started to ensue until the 17:26 mark when Tommy Tsicos got a breakaway shot on Jacob Caffrey and despite the effort from the Columbus netminder, the puck just leaked over the line for a 3-1 score with about two and a half minutes left in the second.
57 seconds later though the River Dragons fired back with Ivan Bondarenko shooting one to the top right corner on the power play making it 3-2 heading to the locker room.
Facing a one-goal deficit heading back onto the ice for the third the River Dragons then turned on the jets and MJ Graham fired one across the face of goal and Gehrett Sargis was able to tap home his 7th of the season for a tie game 3-3.
Then another controversial moment struck on the weekend series when the River Dragons scored a shorthanded goal despite Zack Quinn's helmet being knocked off on the initial shot. Jake Howie then tapped in to the open net and even with a helmetless goalie in net the goal ended up counting for a 4-3 lead for Columbus.
With the lead in hand for the first time of the night the River Dragons then added another tally with Ivan Bondarenko getting his 2nd of the game on a far post shot and in with a little more than 5 minutes to go.
With those three points in hand the River Dragons can clinch a spot in the Ignite Cup playoffs tomorrow afternoon with any sort of win against Carolina.
Jacob Caffrey gets the win tonight with a 28 save effort. Zack Quinn takes the loss with 22 saves on 27 shots.
The same two teams conclude the weekend and season series against each other tomorrow afternoon at the Civic Center. 4:05 puck drop means a 3:35 puck drop on the River Dragons network. Tickets available at the Civic Center box office or on TicketMaster.
Three Stars of the Game