Watertown Snaps Longest Win Streak in FPHL History
By Zak DeBeaussaert
Winston-Salem, NC - The Carolina Thunderbirds suffered defeat for the first time in 72 days when the Watertown Wolves won by a score of 3-2 on Sunday afternoon. A crowd of 2,719 filed into the Fairgrounds Annex hoping to see a 25th straight victory in vain. However, they still remained a part of history, as today's attendance put the Thunderbirds over the 66,204 fan mark they set last year as an FPHL record in 30 games. Carolina still has seven home games remaining this season.
The first period ended with no scoring but there was a brief moment of levity and camaraderie among the Thunderbirds players. Christian Whitcomb boarded Petr Panacek and Chase Fallis dropped his gloves ready to square up, when before the two could grapple, Stan Vlasov cut in front of Fallis to officially get credit for the fight. Fallis was assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty on the play which was killed off by Carolina's #1 penalty kill in the league.
Both teams traded off goals in the second period, with Watertown's Corey Sherman scoring on a one-timer feed from Tim Santopaolo. Less than two minutes later Jiri Pargac would pick up his own rebound and score on a wrap around past Jared Rutledge to tie up the game. Carolina would find themselves on the wrong end of a major penalty assessed to Michael Bunn near the end of the period that would carry over past the intermission.
In the early stages of the third period Jiri Pestuka would commit a hooking penalty and the Thunderbirds would kill off both penalties in a full two minutes of 5-on-3 to keep the game tied. Their penalty kill would eventually break, however, when Anton Kalinin scored on a 2-on-1 rush that was during a different Watertown power play. With less than nine minutes to go, the Thunderbirds found themselves trailing in the contest. With time dwindling down and Christian Pavlas on the bench, Carolina pressed but were undone when Tyler Gjurich slipped a man in the neutral zone and potted an empty net goal that seemingly sealed the game's score. However, Jan Salak had other ideas when he fired one off the glove hand of Rutledge and into the net for a 3-2 game with about 50 seconds left. Three offensive faceoffs and multiple scoring chances later, the Thunderbirds could not solve Rutledge. The Wolves might have skated out of the Annex with only one win in three tries, but they did the most damage possible in snapping the Thunderbirds' FPHL record 24-game winning streak.
Jared Rutledge stopped 45 of 47 shots in the game for his first win this season. He made 154 saves in three straight starts in Winston-Salem. Christian Pavlas picked up his second loss of the year, stopping 28 of 30 shots he faced.
Carolina hits the road next weekend to take on Mentor Friday and Saturday night and Port Huron on Sunday afternoon.
3 Stars of the Game:
Photo credit: V. Khouri