Pavlas Leads Carolina Past Mentor

By Jared Tennant 

Mentor, OH - In a defensive battle, the Carolina Thunderbirds edged out the Mentor Ice Breakers by a 3-1 final on Saturday night at the Mentor Civic Ice Arena. The win gave Carolina a league-leading 103 points and a two-game weekend sweep of the Ice Breakers as they prepares for a tilt with the Port Huron Prowlers on Sunday afternoon.

Mentor and Carolina each had two-minute power play opportunities within the first ten minutes of the game, but both clubs’ penalty kill units held strong. The Thunderbirds had an injury scare early in the contest when Mentor defenseman Joe Swenson was shoved on top of netminder Christian Pavlas. The FHL’s top statistical goaltender was shaken up, but he remained in the game. Carolina appeared to have scored the first goal of the contest midway through the opening period, but the officials ruled that the puck did not cross the goal line after it hit the inside of the top right post and bounced out. The Thunderbirds did manage to take the lead at 18:06 when Jiri Pestuka scored his second goal in as many games against the Ice Breakers. Mentor argued that the play was offsides, but the goal would stand. Michael Bunn and Seth Gustin assisted on the even-strength tally, which sent Carolina into the first intermission with an early advantage.

The Thunderbirds skated with a purpose in the second period, outshooting the Ice Breakers 17-8, but Mentor netminder John Sellie-Hanson made several key saves to keep the Ice Breakers in the game. At 16:42, the Thunderbirds closed in on a fast break before Peter Cicmanec collided with Sellie-Hanson. Cicmanec did not appear to be pushed into the Mentor goaltender, so the Ice Breakers were predictably not pleased. A scrum broke out that included a fight between Thomas Devesvre of Mentor and Carolina’s Michael Bunn, and the Thunderbirds ended up with a two-minute power play. After Declan Conway was called for holding midway through the Ice Breakers’ penalty kill, Jiri Pargac finished off a nice triangle passing play on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage to give the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead.

Mentor got on the board at 7:11 of the third frame when Patrick Porkka netted his 11th goal of the year on a rebound attempt. Matt Kadolph and Alex Morrow chipped in with assists as the Ice Breakers cut Carolina’s lead to 2-1. Just one minute later, Gordy Bonnel and Petr Panacek scrapped in the Ice Breakers defensive zone. With 36 combined penalty minutes on the season, neither player has a reputation as a fighter. Panacek appeared to have the early advantage before Bonnel recovered nicely, landing a few shots before getting the takedown. The Ice Breakers were unable to capitalize on any momentum generated from the fight, and Jay Croop put home a rebound at 11:24 to restore the T-Birds’ two-goal lead and give Mentor a huge mountain to climb against the FHL’s best defensive team. The final ten minutes of the game featured six unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, three on each club, as tempers began to boil over. The Ice Breakers spent the final minute of the game with a two-man advantage after pulling Sellie-Hanson from his net while on the power play. The decision nearly backfired as Pavlas missed out on a rare goalie goal late in the contest, sending the puck wide of the net by inches.

Pavlas was named the 1st Star of the Game after making 22 saves on 23 shots. Sellie-Hanson played a solid game, stopping 28 of 31 shots, but earned a tough-luck loss. Bunn dished out a pair of assists for Carolina.

Photo credit: Dee Hannum