THIRD-PERIOD SURGE SENDS T-BIRDS PAST ICE BREAKERS
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Dee Hannum
Mentor, OH – After battling to a stalemate through two periods of play, the Carolina Thunderbirds overwhelmed the Mentor Ice Breakers in the third frame en route to a 4-1 victory on Friday night at Mentor Civic Ice Arena. The Thunderbirds have now won eight of 10 games against the Ice Breakers in the season series.
Matchups between Carolina and Mentor tend to be high-scoring affairs, but the game was a defensive battle for most of the night. After both teams successfully killed off early penalties, Ice Breakers forward Gordy Bonnel was sprung free for a breakaway with a chance to give the home team an early lead. Bonnel deked a few times before moving to his backhand, but Carolina goaltender Henry Dill wasn’t fooled, stretching out his left pad to make a fantastic save.
The Ice Breakers managed to sneak one past Dill later in the period when winger Mark Essery netted his 16th of the season off of a rebound. Brody Duncan fired the initial shot after taking a pass from Brett Oldaker. With the assist, Duncan now has a three-game point streak with a pair of goals and four assists during that stretch.
Early in the second period, Ice Breakers fans were treated to a heavyweight matchup when forward Tommy Mahoney dropped the gloves with his former teammate, Carolina blueliner Dominik Fejt. Fejt received an additional two-minute penalty for instigating to go along with a 10-minute misconduct, so he spent the majority of the second period in the sin bin. Carolina tied things up shortly after that scrap when Jiri Pargac found Joe Cangelosi on the backdoor for an easy one-time finish.
Mentor’s frustration with the officiating became apparent late in the second period when it was hit with a two-minute bench minor for abuse of officials. Just 53 seconds into the third frame, the Ice Breakers were hit with another penalty for the same reason, but this time head coach Iain Duncan was ejected from the game.
At 3:59 of the third, Jan Salak gave Carolina its first lead of the night. Just 3:38 later, Jiri Pestuka made it a 3-1 game with his fourth goal of the year via assists from Cangelosi and Chase Fallis. Pestuka fired a hard wrist shot that found its way to the back of the net before the Ice Breakers had any time to react. Mentor kept fighting, but the Thunderbirds effectively sealed their victory when Petr Panacek scored to give Carolina a three-goal lead with 3:32 remaining in the game. It was a frustrating game for the Ice Breakers despite a promising start, but Mentor will need to rebound quickly with another matchup against these same Thunderbirds looming tomorrow night.
“We’ve got to come back with a better effort tomorrow,” said Duncan. “We’ve got to play 60 minutes, I’d say we played about 40 tonight. They do a good job of cutting down the shots on net, but we didn’t do a good enough job getting to the dirty areas tonight.”
For Carolina, Cangelosi had three points with a goal and a pair of assists while Fallis served as the T-Birds’ primary playmaker with three assists. Dill stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced to improve to 8-2-1 on the year while his counterpart, Ice Breakers netminder Derek Moser, fell to 7-14-2 after making 21 saves on 25 shots.