by Drew Blevins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.- The Carolina Thunderbirds fell in the shootout to the Columbus River Dragons 3-2 on Friday night at the Annex.

"You know, I think we need a little bit of luck," said Andre Niec, "but I thought the boys played well."

The River Dragons struck first on former-Thunderbirds Chase Fallis's eighth goal of the weekend, just 4:51 into the game.

Carolina's Daniel Klinecky would answer with a power-play goal 12:18 into the first to tie things up. Klinecky now has 16 goals on the season and 56 points as a rookie.

The second period was filled with chances for Carolina. Jay Kenney hit the post, Daniel Martin beat Columbus starter Jared Rutledge, but the shot ricocheted wide. The Thunderbirds outshot the River Dragons 17-3 in the second and 37-8 through the first two period combined.

"Clearly I am a bad coach and I'm trying to destroy this team," said Andre Niec after the game.

Jan Salak gave Carolina the lead 2:58 into the third on a wrister over Rutledge's glove-side shoulder. The Thunderbirds clung to that lead as Nick Modica turned away shot-after-shot down the stretch.

An altercation midway through the period saw Columbus head coach Jerome Bechard tossed and seven players sent to the penalty box, but Carolina failed to score on the powerplay.

After a late timeout, Aleh Shypitsyn scored on a deflected shot with just 40 seconds remaining in regulation. It is Shypitsyn's third goal of the year.

Neither team created many chances in overtime, and Columbus won the shootout 2-1 with Cameron Dimmitt scoring in the final inning of the breakaway competition.

The Thunderbirds are still the top of the FPHL at 102 standings points and a 31-6-2-5 record. Columbus improves to 18-19-6-1, with 67 standings points.

"You know what, they got lucky, but I'd prefer to save my luck for the playoffs," said Niec.

The two teams rematch twice more this weekend, Saturday in Columbus and Sunday in Carolina.