Round One of the FPHL playoffs could not have ended any better for the Carolina Thunderbirds and the crowd at a sold out Winston-Salem Fairgrounds annex. In a two game series against the Port Huron Prowlers, the Thunderbirds won both games to advance to Round Two against the Columbus River Dragons in a face off of the top two teams in the division.
Game one of the series against the Prowlers saw three different Thunderbirds light the lamp in a 6-3 win in Port Huron. Petr Panacek notched 3 goals while Josh Koepplinger had 2 and Jiri Pestuka had 1 with 2 assists. Pancek was helped by Pestuka and Jan Salak on his first goal at 02:43in the first. Jiri Pestuka made it 2-0 Thunderbirds with an assist from Gus Ford at 9:25.
In the second, Petr Panacek belted an unassisted, shorthanded goal to put the Thunderbirds up 3-0. Then it was Josh Koepplinger’s turn to tack two on the Prowlers. Both goals were assisted by John Buttitta and Gus Ford added to the first for his second assist of the night.
Petr Panacek ended the night with an empty netter to make the final score of 6-3.
In net Boris Babik went the distance with 36 saves on 39 shots.
Round One, Game Two would need more than the doctor prescribed 60 minutes to decide the winner.
In front of an official attendees of 2,784, Port Huron jumped out to a 1-0 led over the Thunderbird before Jan Salak would score on a tic-tac-toe play from Joseph “Bootlegger” Kennedy and Jiri “The Bazooka” Pestuka early in the second period. Dawson Baker would round out the second period scoring with help from Kennedy and Pestuka. With just 7 SOG in the first period, Carolina pelted 20 in the second proving their tried and true “they can’t shoot if we are” method works even in the FPHL playoffs.
But that domination would end as soon as the Port Huron Prowlers hit the ice in the third. The Prowlers came out with three straight goals to make the score a 4-3 until late in the 3rd. At 18:12 Petr Panacek put the biscuit in the basket to tie the game. As almost predictable, he had help from Josh Koepplinger and Gus Ford on the power play goal.
In OT. Dawson Baker won it for the Thunderbirds with an even strength goal with an assist from the man, the myth, the legend Gus Ford.
Boris Babik again went from puck drop to final horn with 33 saves on 37 shots.
Ford would finish the series with 5 assists bringing his season total up to 68, and his point total up to 114.
The Thunderbirds will start Round Two against the Columbus River Dragons in Columbus and then head for the Camel City for two if needed.