Not only have the Carolina Thunderbirds clinched a birth in the FPHL Playoffs, their leading scorer Gus Ford has set the franchise record for the most points in a single season. Not a bad week for a hockey team. Especially ones hitting the ice in Camel City.
If Gus Ford is not getting at least a passing glance from the powers that be in an AHL or NHL organization, something is wrong. “Something bad wrong” in the words of my native lands. Ford not only still leads the FPHL in nearly every offensive category, he has set a Carolina Thunderbirds franchise record for the most points in a single season with 87.
But Ford’s success is not just a flash in the pan at the FPHL level.
Since the 2016-17 season at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, Ford has played at an almost point per game clip. In four seasons, he massed 93 points over 104 games. His first season with Quad City Storm in the SPHL he racked up 2 points while appearing in just 3 games. The next year with the Macon Mayhem it again was 2 points in 5 games. His FPHL rookie season with the Carolina Thunderbirds was a 84 point campaign over 55 games. This year he reached 87 in just 34 games.
At any level, Gus Ford has had a season most anyone hitting the ice would not mind having.
But Gus Ford’s offense has not fallen to waste. With their 4-3 over the Birmingham Bears, Carolina has punched their ticket to the FPHL playoffs.
Birmingham jumped out early in the first with two goals. The T’birds would pop back with a goal from John Buttitta (10) with help from Gus Ford (53) and Tucker Firth (19).
Off the 2nd period face-off, Birmingham would make it 3-1 but Carolina would put up 2 unanswered later in the period, and one more in the 3rd to clinch their FHPL birth for the second time in two years. Josh Koepplinger would net his 27th lamp lighter to make things 3-2. Lucas Rowe would be scored with his 35th assist on the season with Koepplinger’s goal. With help from Viktor Grebennikov (11), Blake Peavey (15) would knot things at 3 in the bottom half of the 2nd period.
Josh Koepplinger was not done. His 4th GWG of the season put him tied for 2nd in FPHL standing in the game winner’s column. Gus Ford would get his 53rd assist on Koepplinger’s goal, which put him squarely in the lead of the league, and subsequently set the points record. Dawson Baker (18) fed Ford for the second assist on the game winning goal.
The win against Birmingham clinched the Thunderbirds FPHL playoffs spot with 16 games left in the season. Depending on the remaining games Carolina is likely to be seeded with the #2 spot in the FPHL playoffs bracket.