by Zak DeBeaussaert
Columbus, GA - The Carolina Thunderbirds skated away winners again on Saturday night, but only took two points after a late shorthanded goal from Columbus' Ian White forced overtime.
Carolina scored the first goal of the game at the 6:24 mark of the first period with Dawson Baker outwaiting Bailey MacBurnie after driving across the slot to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0.
MJ Graham tied things up a few minutes later at the 10:08 mark when the puck came loose in the crease, and he managed to squeeze the puck just over the line during a net mouth scrum on the power play. Dalton Anderson converted a rebound goal which more hit off of him and went in then was shot in set up by Marquis Grant-Mentis who retrieved the puck on a turnover, putting the River Dragons up 2-1 which would hold to the intermission.
In the second, Daniel Martin tied things up at 2-2 with a tap-in rebound goal after a Blake Peavey shot and the rebound sat alone in the crease, Vaughn Clouston also racked up an assist on the play at at the 9:40 mark.
Jay Croop re-established the Columbus lead after sliding one past Paulin going across the slot at the 13:07 mark to give the River Dragons a 3-2 lead.
A bit of chaos broke out between several players at the 18:29 mark with Hunter Bersani, MJ Graham, Vaughn Clouston, and Jacob Schnapp all picking up roughing penalties and Clouston additionally picking up a match penalty for slashing after he went at MacBurnie during the melee.
Despite being down by one again heading into a period, the Thunderbirds tied things up with Gus Ford finding a pass from Tommy Cardinal to make the game 3-3 with about 13 minutes to go. Declan Conway then gave Carolina the lead with a quick-shot goal in the slot assisted by Jacob Schnapp at the 10:36 mark to turn the tide of the game.
Not long after though, Austin Daae tied things up with a clean goal from the left side assisted by Jay Croop, ringing the back bar and putting the score at 4-4. Daae's goal answered Conway's in 1:20.
Tim Perks then put one over the shoulder and bar down at the 16:42 mark to put Carolina up 5-4 with time running down.
On the next shift a delayed penalty was set to be called against Jay Croop and by the time the Dragons touched the puck there was 2:27 left in the game. Already with a mountain to climb, Croop picked up a mathcp enalty for slashing on his way to the box and turned it into a 7-minute power play for Carolina.
Even with the man advantage, Carolina continued to press up ice and while securing the puck in their own end, an errant pass found the tape of Ian White who scored his first FPHL goal sniping the top right corner at the 18:54 mark to tie the game at five and send us to overtime.
In the overtime period, Columbus was still down a man for 4:33 of the five-minute overtime, yet despite that recorded the first shot that was stopped by Paulin. As time dwindled down, Levi Armstrong (serving Croop's penalties) wasless than 40 seconds from being out of the box, but Dawson Baker ended the game the at 3:57 in overtime with a backbar snipe which gave Carolina a 6-5 win.
Chris Paulin gets a second consecutive win with 27 saves on the night. Bailey MacBurnie takes the OTL, with 29 saves on 35 shots.
The same two teams go at it again tomorrow afternoon with a 4:30 puck drop at the Civic Center. Tickets available at the Civic Center Box Office or on TicketMaster. Tomorrow night's game will be the first one carried on TV-18 serving the Auburn-Opelika and West Point markets. The game will also be seen on the River Dragons YouTube page and the CRD Radio Network.