by Zak DeBeaussaert
Columbus, GA - The Columbus River Dragons fell to the Carolina Thunderbirds on Friday night by a score of 4-3 to kick off the 3-in-3 weekend between the two teams.
The Thunderbirds were the first to get a tally on the board with Cody Oakes finding a hole through Rutledge, scoring off a low wrist shot at the 5:27 mark to give the Thunderbirds the early lead. A few minutes later at the 9:57 mark, Tommy Cardinal added to the Thunderbirds lead after a 2-on-1 opportunity resulted in a goal after Gus Ford's speed created the rush and then he was able to slide the puck across for the tap in, giving the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead.
Late in the first period at the 17:32 mark, Hunter Bersani caught a pass from Austin Daae, faked once and then buried the puck in the back of the net to put the River Dragons on the board, trailing 2-1 heading into the locker room.
The second period opened up with Jay Croop and Declan Conway dropping the gloves off the opening faceoff. The fight didn't last long, but each guy got 5 minutes as the crowd was roaring to begin the period.
Columbus would rally off that momentum and with a power play in hand and chaos erupting around the net at the 12:58 mark, Josh Pietrantonio scored a goal tapping the puck over the line after it had gotten through Chris Paulin off a point shot, tying the game at 2-2.
The Thunderbirds reclaimed their lead just a few minutes later with Gus Ford going 5-hole on Rutledge to put Carolina back up 3-2 at the 15:48 mark. The period concluded with a skirmish between Jay Croop and Vaughn Clouston that saw the two pick up roughing calls headed back to the locker room. The teams would skate 4-on-4 to start the third.
Declan Conway tallied a goal for Carolina at the 9:54 mark of the third period, extending the Thunderbirds’ lead to 4-2. with a snipe from the left circle that went off the post and in.
The River Dragons pulled their goalie for an extra attacker in a bid to get themselves back in the game at the 17:50 mark. Robert Vanwynsberghe capitalized on the extra attacker opportunity, scoring a goal with an assist from Josh Pietrantonio to put the River Dragons within one of the Thunderbirds. Although there was some excitement from a near miss from Jay Croop in front of the goal as time expired, the game concluded with the Thunderbirds winning 4-3.
Chris Paulin secured his 8th win of the year with 23 saves on 27 River Dragons shots. Jared Rutledge takes the loss with 15 saves on 19 shots.
The same two teams go at it again tomorrow and Sunday at the Civic Center. Tickets available at the Civic Center Box Office or on TicketMaster. Saturday's puck drop is at 7:30 with a 7:00 Fort Benning Harley-Davidson pregame show.