ICE BREAKERS SKID CONTINUES IN CAROLINA

By Jared Tennant

Photo: V. Khouri

Winston-Salem, NC – When a team gets a hot the way the Carolina Thunderbirds have, it can be difficult to slow them down. The shorthanded Mentor Ice Breakers learned that firsthand over the weekend as they dropped a pair of physical road games against the streaking Thunderbirds, who have now won 10 straight contests to propel themselves to a sizeable 20-point lead at the top of the FHL standings.

Friday, December 28 – Thunderbirds 8, Ice Breakers 1

Mentor came into Friday night’s game against the Thunderbirds expecting a challenge from a deep T-Birds squad with an offense that’s been heating up. The Ice Breakers probably didn’t anticipate the offensive showcase Carolina put on in the blowout loss.

The Thunderbirds didn’t waste any time getting things going, scoring four times within the first 12 minutes of the game. Mentor starter John Sellie-Hanson was pulled from the game in favor of Derek Moser after the first two goals, but Carolina’s offensive effort continued to overwhelm the banged-up Ice Breakers, who were missing several key contributors in forwards Gordy Bonnel, Declan Conway, and Tim Perks.

It was more of the same in the second period when Jiri Pargac and Peter Cicmanec both added their second goals of the game within the first five minutes of the frame to make it a 6-0 game. Brett Oldaker finally got Mentor on the board at 11:02 off assists from Mark Essery and Nate Farrington.

In the third period, some physical play between Thunderbirds blueliner Dominik Fejt and Ice Breakers forward Ivan Vilcauskas resulted in a broken door in the corner of the rink. Vilcauskas had applied a couple of big hits to Fejt and his teammates earlier in the period and the Thunderbirds d-man responded with a hard check that sent Vilcauskas into the boards and caused the door to break. The ensuing delay lasted just over an hour before play was finally resumed.

Carolina tacked on two more goals in the third period to make it an 8-1 final in a nightmare game for Mentor. The Ice Breakers were out-shot 43-19 in the loss and struggled to possess the puck and create offensive chances for the majority of the game.

Saturday, December 29 – Thunderbirds 5, Ice Breakers 1

There was a pretty entertaining hockey game going on through two periods at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex on Saturday evening. Carolina held a 3-1 lead after netting a pair of second-period goals and the officials had called only two penaltie, both on the T-Birds. The Ice Breakers goal game via Oldaker, who netted his second goal in as many games and now has 13 points (6-7-13) on the campaign. The Canonsburg, Pennsylvania native has been a bright spot during the Ice Breakers recent rough patch.

Tempers boiled over in the third frame as the frustrated Ice Breakers seemed to be headed towards their fifth straight loss. The Thunderbirds stretched their lead to 4-1 at 1:32 before a hard hit from Ice Breakers forward Dzmitry Daniliuk that was called for a cross-checking penalty set off chaos.

Ice Breakers defenseman Brody Duncan got into a back-and-forth scrap with Karel Drahorad in one of the more entertaining fights you’ll see in the FHL. After the two players finished the lengthy battle and slapped hands, both teams retreated to their benches. Things seemed to be calming down before Vilcauskas speared a Thunderbird in front of Carolina’s bench and players from both sides had had enough. Benches began to clear as an all-out brawl ensued between the Thunderbirds and Ice Breakers. The previous meetings between the two clubs were intense and probably contributed to the madness that went on during the third period of Saturday’s game.

The bench-clearing battle royale was capped off with a goalie fight between Sellie-Hanson and Thunderbirds goaltender Frankie McClendon, who was having one of the best games of his FHL career prior to the fight. McClendon, 25, has been around the league for the last four years but has never drawn more than five appearances with one team in a season. This year marks his second in a row with the T-Birds and, even though he’s wearing the other team’s colors, it’s not hard to root for the success of the Oakland, California native when he’s not playing the Ice Breakers.

Mercifully for the sake of both teams’ health, the game ended after some more physical play late in the third period. Pargac scored his second goal of the night to make it a 5-1 Carolina lead at 15:26, and with both benches beginning to empty due to penalties and ejections it seemed that the game was beginning to settle down. Matt Kadolph and Drahorad had other plans as they fought behind the Thunderbirds net and were both ejected. Penalties for the game were finally capped off with 29 seconds to go when Mark Essery and Fejt scrapped. All in all, the two teams combined for a staggering 189 penalty minutes, which is still less than the 212 PIMs accrued by the two sides back on November 24th.

This was the type of series that the Ice Breakers need to quickly move past. It was an ugly weekend, but two games don’t define a season. Mentor still has a chance to rebound from the last couple of weeks in front of their hometown fans on New Year’s Eve against the Port Huron Prowlers. Hopefully, the upcoming returns of some key players and improved discipline will get Mentor back into the win column on Monday evening.

The Ice Breakers, proud members of the Federal Hockey League, are in their inaugural season. Single-game tickets and ticket packages are available 24/7 online at mentoricebreakers.com/tickets. They can also be purchased at the box office prior to every home game or by calling (440) 290-8502