by Dillon Clark
Winston-Salem, NC – The Carolina Thunderbirds completed their first home sweep since mid-January on Saturday night, blanking the Danbury Hat Tricks, 5-0. With his 30 save shutout, Chris Paulin was the first Thunderbirds goaltender to blank an opponent since Nick Modica in March of 2021.
After a high hit knocked Viktor Grebennikov out of Friday night’s contest, Danbury’s Phil Bronner was an immediate target at the start of Saturday’s game. Daniel Martin dropped the gloves with Bronner to settle the score off the opening faceoff. Martin took down Bronner with a left upper cut, sparking the Carolina crowd early. Tory McLean opened the scoring five minutes into the period, benefiting from Jiri Pestuka’s slick mitts. Pestuka dangled down the right wing through two Hat Tricks, then threw the puck off the far goalpost. McLean buried the rebound to open the scoring, which was his second goal in as many nights. Later, Marvin Powell found himself loose in the Danbury slot and threw a backhand shot into goaltender Pete DiSalvo. John Buttitta cleaned up the rebound, putting the Thunderbirds up 2-0. Blake Peavey capped off the opening frame with his 12th goal of the season, and the Thunderbirds strolled into the first intermission with the 3-0 lead.
Neither team found the back of the net in the second period, though Danbury began to find its footing. The Hat Tricks found more chances, including two powerplays, but couldn’t beat Chris Paulin. Through 20 minutes, the score remained 3-0, though the shots were even at 27 apiece.
The two clubs continued their back-and-forth play in the third period, but neither club could find paydirt. Finally, Jiri Pestuka hopped up on the rush, catching a John Buttitta pass and snapping a shot past Pete DiSalvo for the 4-0 lead. Gus Ford would be left unchecked in front two minutes later and made no mistake, pushing Carolina to the five-spot. Chris Paulin weathered a late-game storm, securing the 5-0 win and shutout.
Carolina plays two more times at home this season. First on Wednesday night against Delaware, then Friday against Port Huron. The Thunderbirds then close out the 2021-2022 regular season in Columbus, Danbury, and Binghamton.