T’birds Skid Against Rockers And Mammoth But Ready To Recover

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 14: TopScorer Jiri Sekac #92 of Lausanne HC scores a goal in empty net during the National League match between Lausanne HC and HC Lugano at Vaudoise Arena on February 14, 2023 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 14: TopScorer Jiri Sekac #92 of Lausanne HC scores a goal in empty net during the National League match between Lausanne HC and HC Lugano at Vaudoise Arena on February 14, 2023 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images) /

The Carolina Thunderbirds had lost only four games in 2023 before hitting a quick skid against the Motor City Rockers, and Elmira Mammoth. Still the individual points have kept rolling along with some extra-curricular credits for 4 Thunderbirds. Still the team is in 2nd place and just 6 points behind. And the T’birds are going to let life imitate are with the signing of the Hussey Brothers, adding a bit to the circus side show that are the Carolina Thunderbirds

Carolina took a quick 2-1 win against the Rockers team from Motor City in the first of the three game series. In a rare fill game Mario Cavaliere had a 38 save night as the T’birds kept the Rockers on their heels with 49 shots. This 49 shot affair, as we will soon seen, will be the lowest shot total in the next five games as the T’birds have not lost that “can’t score if you don’t shoot” mentality. Dawson Baker put two in the net with assists on both from Gus Ford for Carolina’s scoring.

From there, things took a turn towards High Point for the T’birds of the Camel City. Matthew Bazarin started the Thunderbird scoring in the 2nd period with help from Gus Ford, and John Buttitta. Two quick minutes later Josh Koepplinger netted one with an assist from, you guessed it, Gus Ford and Lucas Rowe. Mario Cavaliere kept 9 of 10 out but Boris Babik had a rough night letting 3 get by him. The 4-2 loss represented just the fifth game the Carolina Thunderbirds suffered in the year of 2023 B.C.E.

But if the 4-2 loss was a trip to High Point,  in the series finale against the Rockers the T’birds made it all the way to Thomasville. Like most who it up there, it is not for a lack of effort. The T’birds put 59 shots on goal, 46 of those came equally divided between the last two frames. A 4 goal, 3rd period come back was highlighted by goals from Gus Ford with help from John Buttitta, and Dawson Baker, Jacob Schnapp assisted by Petr Panacek, and Daniel Martin, and the tying goal by Joseph Kennedy with Petr Pancek’s second assist of the period and Jan Salak. Despite the late charge, Rockers Scott Coash scored at the 18:55 marker to rob the Thunderbirds the win and a series win as well.

Carolina was able to bounce back, however briefly, in their next road game against the Elmira Mammoth in Elmira. And while this was a 60 shot, 7 goal thumping. Mario Cavaliere  and new goalie Gregory Hussey split their game with Cavaliere taking three on the chin. Hussey would like to have his back too. Carolina was still able to tack three more on the Mammoth in the third including an empty netter by Jan Salak with an assist from Brendan Hussey, who incidentally happened to be the playing in his first game in a T’birds uniform and the brother of Gregory Hussey. There will be more on this in a minute, but we can only hope they brought their slot car track on the road with them to Elmira.

What had to be a prime example of what Ken Dryden talks about in his book The Game, the rough nature of hockey and the pent up physicality all boiled over in the second of a two game stand in Elmira between the Mammoth and the T’birds.  Somewhere between the 38 penalties ranging from “Illegal Check to the Head”(two, Gus Ford)  to “Head-Butting” (John Buttitta)  to “Throwing Objects onto Ice” to (my personal favorite served by John “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One” Pringle) to “Lewd or Inappropriate Gesture” (Gregory Hussey. How does that even happen you ask? Watch the video) these teams were able to play out a 5-3 win for Elmira.  Maybe the most exciting penalty was called on Elmira Mammoth Kyle Stevens for “Leaving the Players or Penalty Bench” before the puck could drop on the third period.

Just enjoy

The final game notwithstanding, the Carolina Thunderbirds continued their offensive style of hockey although they’ve only won 2 of 5. During this briefest of losing streaks, the T’birds have out shot their opponents 254 to 179. Gus Ford continues to lead the FPHL in almost all of the offensive categories with Lucus Rowe, and John Buttita in the top ten as well. Defensively, Mario Cavaliere and Boris Babik remain at or near the top of the categories, although the Thunderbirds have brought in a third goalie in Gegory Hussey. Hussey was picked up on waivers to spell a banged up Babik and has, as you read, already found himself suspended for a “Lewd and Inappropriate Gesture” in the second game against the Mammoth.

But the Hussey Brothers, not very much unlike the Hanson brother except there are only two, have already brought a whole new level of intensity to the T’birds. In his first two games as a Thunderbird forward Brendan Hussey has two assists. His brother Gregory already has a S% of .897 and 10 PIM.

Brendan Hussey has had flashes of real greatness but also a streaky stripe. Bouncing between time away from hockey, the SPHL (Macon Mayhem) and several teams in the FPHL (Watertown Wolves and Elmire Enforcers) he has respectable career numbers for what I am sure you can assume he is. Going back to 2018-19 with the Elmira Enforcers (then of the FHL) Hussey has  appeared in 166 games over 5 seasons of pro hockey and tallied 75 points. His best goal scoring year was 10 his rookie year. Inversely, in those 5 years on professional ice, he has sat  in time out for 135 minutes. Now, I can assume with more certainty that you understand why he found himself in Carolina with the T’birds.

Brendan’s brother Gregory Hussey is not terribly far behind him in PIM either, making me wonder if they buy tin foil in bulk. In 29 games with the Watertown Wolves this season he racked up 29 PIM with 1,041 minutes of ice time. Looking at the stat line on Gregory Hussey is seems a little like looking at the stat sheet of another feisty goalie we know who plays in Carolina. In those same 29 games with the FPHL Wovles, Hussey stopped 534. He already had 44 saves with the Thunderbirds in two games against the Mammoth before he got booted until April 1st.

Despite the short losing skid to both the Rockers and splitting a series against the Mammoth, the Thunderbirds still remain 2nd in the Continental Division, just 6 points back of Columbus. With Columbus still in front of the T’birds on the schedule it is very possible to close that gap easily. Carolina will face the River Dragons in a 3 away, 1 home four game series after seeing the Mississippi Sea Wolves at home in Winston-Salem for a three game series.

As always you can keep up with the Carolina Thunderbirds on Twitter, Facebook, and catch all their games on Youtube. Or better yet, check them out at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.