by Dillon Clark
Wintson-Salem, NC – In the second of a three-game series, the Carolina Thunderbirds rode an early onslaught to victory. Four unanswered goals pushed Carolina to its first regulation win against Watertown this season.
Blake Peavey opened the scoring for Carolina with a sharp angle shot against Chris Marsillo. The puck ricocheted off the Watertown goaltender’s pads as he hugged the goal post before slipping over the goal line. Just 41 seconds later, Dawson Baker had a shot poked off his stick in the high slot. Waiting behind him was Declan Conway, who snapped the puck over the shoulder of Marsillo for the 2-0 lead. To end the period, Baker would hammer home yet another powerplay goal from the left-wing faceoff circle. Josh Labelle was in the penalty box for hooking as the Thunderbirds increased the deficit to three goals. Jarrett Meyer would end the period by taking a delay of game penalty which carried over into the second period.
Despite beginning the second period shorthanded, the Thunderbirds found a way to crack the scoresheet again. Skating back with Dawson Baker and John Buttitta, Jiri Pestuka tapped home a shorthanded goal 51 seconds into the period. Skating in his 138th game in a Carolina uniform, Pestuka became the franchise leader in games played.
The period would be interrupted by a skirmish that the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex hadn’t seen since 2020. By time the dust had settled, three skaters, two goalies, and Carolina’s head coach were all ejected from the game. The Wolves killed off the ensuing two-minute penalty, using the momentum shift to net a pair of goals. With the game suddenly turned on its ear Watertown trailed 4-2 headed into the 3rd period.
Ryan Devine opened the 3rd period with a goal from the high slot, bringing the Wolves within a goal of tying the game. After Justin MacDonald rang a shot off the goal post, Carolina would go on to outshoot Watertown 20-9 in the third period. Both goaltenders weathered considerable storms, but Tommy Cardinal’s empty net goal in the final minute put things to bed.
With the 5-3 loss, Watertown suffers consecutive losses for the first time this season. Meanwhile, Carolina improves to 14-14-4-3 on the year. The final game of the weekend series is set to begin at 4:05 on Sunday evening.