Playoffs Game Recaps 4/28/24


Thunderbirds Eliminate River Dragons 


by Tom Callahan

Columbus, GA -  Gus Ford’s breakaway goal at 4:43 of double overtime sent the Carolina Thunderbirds to the Commissioners Cup final with a 2-1 win over the Columbus River Dragons on Sunday night.

Columbus broke through first at 10:33 of the first period on Ryan Hunter’s second goal of the playoffs, a wrist shot from the left circle that rang in off the far post past the glove of Mario Cavaliere (41 saves).

Carolina tied the game up in the third period at 12:08 when James Farmer scored his first of the postseason off a feed from Justin Bioni.

With each team failing to score on a power play chance in the first overtime, it would be a Dawson Baker feed to Ford at the far blueline allowing him to break in alone and score the game winner to send Carolina through to the Final.


  • The game marked the final games in the careers of River Dragons captain Josh Pietrantonio and assistant captain Austin Daae.
  • In 13 games between the River Dragons and Thunderbirds on the 23-24 season, seven of them went to OT or a shootout.
  • Columbus failed to score on four power play chances for, while Carolina failed to cash in its only power play chance.
  • Columbus’ season comes to an end in the Continental Division Final for the second straight season.

Carolina will now open the best-of-five Commissioners Cup Final at home against the Binghamton Black Bears on Friday night. 

Ford Sends Carolina to Commissioners Cup Finals

FPHL Forward of the Year seals Game Three in Columbus

by Brendan Reilly

Columbus, GA - After trailing once again in the 3rd period against the Columbus River Dragons, James Farmer tied Game Three with 7:52 remaining in regulation, and in the 2nd overtime, Dawson Baker laced a pass to Gus Ford for a breakaway to win Game Three of the Continental Division Final, 2-1 on Sunday night at the Columbus Civic Center.


After a scoreless 1st period that only saw nine shots in total, Columbus broke the deadlock over the midway mark in the 2nd period. Ryan Hunter glided down the left side into the attacking zone snapping a shot past Carolina netminder, Mario Cavaliere, giving the FPHL regular season champions a 1-0 lead. 


That goal from Hunter would be the only shot to get past Cavaliere all night. After saving 41 out of 43 shots in Game Two, Cavaliere continued to stand on his head keeping the Thunderbirds alive. 


With Cavaliere strong in net and the Thunderbirds trailing 1-0 in the 3rd period, James Farmer, who only had one goal in the regular season, raced from the red line to the front of the net and slipping a shot past Breandan Colgan, tying the game at one with 7:52 remaining in regulation. Neither side could find a winner and for the second night in a row, Carolina and Columbus went to overtime. 


In the 1st overtime, Columbus pressured Carolina, putting up 11 shots, but Cavaliere controlled the chaos in his zone fending off shots from point blank range and keeping the Thunderbirds season alive. After 20 minutes, the two sides went to a second overtime, where Carolina was able to clinch. 


After a puck bounced off the glass in the defensive zone, Dawson Baker snapped a pass to Gus Ford at the attacking blue line for a breakaway opportunity and the FPHL Forward of the Year beat Colgan to send Carolina to the Commissioners Cup Finals for the second straight season. 


With the 2-1 victory, Carolina knocks out Columbus for the second straight season in the Continental Division Final and improve to 8-3 all time in overtime in the postseason. 


Carolina now is set to face the Binghamton Black Bears in the Commissioners Cup Finals starting next Friday in Winston-Salem. Puck drop for Game One is set for 7:35 p.m. from the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Arena.