MENTOR, OHIO- The Carolina Thunderbirds, proud members of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, outlasted the Mentor Ice Breakers on Sunday afternoon 4-3 at the Mentor Civic Ice Arena.
“The guys who played today, they really battled,” said head coach Andre Niec, “It shows that we are a team, a real team, a family.”
After suspensions levied against Michael Bunn, Konner Haas and Jan Salak, Carolina turned to Kelly Curl , Vinnie D’Andrea and Niec to fill the voids. Even with the last-minute additions, the Thunderbirds still skated with only 13 on the bench.
The game started tremendously for the Thunderbirds with Jan Krivohlavek scoring 3:04 into the first period, on the first goal of the game.
Things took a turn from there.
After the goal, Patrik Polivka suffered a lower-body injury reaching for a puck. He was helped off the ice by both Mentor trainers and would not return.
Further complicating matter, Carolina was called for five penalties in the first period, spending half of the frame in the box.
Steven Fowler and Declan Conway scored on the man-advantages, breaking an 0-for-20 streak on the powerplay for the Ice Breakers. Mentor led 2-1 after the first period.
Jordan Brant was solid in goal in the second period, turning away 10 shots in the second. Conway would score again with eight minutes remaining in the period to make it 3-0 Mentor.
After the intermission, Mentor took back-to-back penalties within the first five minutes of the third period. The Thunderbirds scored when Jo Osaka shot a puck off of a defender and into the next to make it 3-2, just 3:06 into the third.
Daniel Martin deflect Petr Panacek’s shot into the net just 1:32 later to tie the game. Stan Vlasov assisted on both goals to earn his 100th career FPHL point.
Jake Mullen was tremendous in goal in the third period, coming up with a huge save on an Alexander Morrow breakaway with 1:20 to go in the game. Mullen would make eight saves in the third period and one more in overtime.
The Thunderbirds owned the overtime period, but were unable to score and the game went to a shootout.
Carolina’s Jan Krivohlavek and Petr Panacek scored on the first two shots of the shootout prompting Mentor coach Iain Duncan to pull Brant for Frankie McClendon.
McClendon stopped 4-of-5 shots he faced in the shootout, as Daniel Klinecky scored the game-winner for Carolina in the seventh inning of the breakaway contest.
The Thunderbirds earn a season sweep over the Ice Breakers, having beat Mentor 17 straight times dating back to last season.
Carolina faces Danbury on the road for another three-game set on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.