Thunderbirds Thwart Wolves' Chase for First Place

By Jay Harris 

Watertown, NY - It was a battle for first place at the Watertown Municipal Arena on Saturday night. The Watertown Wolves hosted the Carolina Thunderbirds, who started the night at the top of the Federal Hockey League standings and remained there. 

Carolina owned the first period in goals. Chase Fallis tapped in a deflection for the first goal of the game. Thunderbirds Captain Josh Pietrantonio was set up by Everett Thompson with a beauty of a play to catch netminder Cody Porter on his blindside for the second goal of the game. Watertown was the only team served penalties in the first period. The Wolves successfully killed off Josh Newberg's tripping penalty and Justin Coachman's elbowing infraction. The teams went back to the locker rooms with a 0-2 Carolina score at the end of the period. 

The second period belonged to the Wolves. League-leading scorer Tyler Gjurich turned the momentum in the Wolves' favor on a power play from Tommy Mahoney's holding penalty. Carolina's goaltender was charged with high sticking when his stick met the face of Brandon Wahlin. The fans thought they saw Yates score a second power play goal during that penalty, but the officials determined it did not cross the line. Carolina also killed Everett Thompson's boarding penalty, demonstrating why they currently lead the league in penalty kill percentage. New Wolf Blake Forslund won his faceoff and got the puck to George Holt who scored with a laser from the faceoff circle to tie the game. Watertown was unable to capitalize on Peter Cicmanec's interference penalty, despite having been the most successful team in the league on the power play. Just before time ran out in the second, Watertown's Christian Whitcomb and Carolina's Thompson had a back and forth that escalated to each ending up with a roughing penalty. The exchange sent the teams going into the third period in some 4-on-4 action and tied at 2. 

The pendulum swung back in Carolina's favor for the third period. Jiri Pestuka got his first goal of the season on a power play from Whitcomb's interference penalty to take the lead for the Thunderbirds. Jiri Pargac and Jay Croop extended the lead to end the game with a 2-5 score. What Watertown lacked in goals in the third period they made up for in gumption, racking up 30 penalty minutes in the last period. 

Jiri Pestuka's game winning goal gave him the 1st Star of the Game. Watertown's Tyler Gjurich and George Holt earned the 2nd and 3rd Stars, respectively. 

The Wolves will spend the next two weekends on the road battling the Danville Dashers and Port Huron Prowlers. The Wolves will return to Watertown Municipal Arena on Friday, December 28th to host a weekend series with the Port Huron Prowlers. The excitement begins at 7:30 PM.

Photo credit: CMC Advertising Design & Photography