Czech Line Hits Ground Running In Thunderbirds Opening Series


Jan Salak, Petr Panacek, and Jiri Pestuka had themselves a weekend in the Carolina Thunderbird’s opening series against the Danbury Hat Tricks. The Birds split two in Connecticut but the Czech Line racked up 5 points over the weekend.

Jan Salak returns to the Thunderbirds after skating with them for 48 games last season. His regular season line reads an impressive 15 G and 40 A, and in 10 playoff games he had 11 points from the left wing. This is Salak’s second tour with the Thunderbirds with his first starting in 2018 and lasting through the 2021 season. In all three years, he was a point + a night player.

Petr Panacek came to Camel City last season and in 34 games put up a cool 50 regular season points and 13 in the playoffs. This is Panacek’s second stint with Carolina too, having joined fellow Czechs Salak and Jiri Pestuka for point and night seasons between 2018 and 2021. Pestuka has essentially been with the Thunderbirds since 2017 save for 29 games during the 2019-20 season. Like his fellow Czechs, Pestuka has been a point or better a night skater with the Czech Line.

Friday, the Thunderbirds traveled North to face their 2022-23 playoff rivals in rematch of the Commissioners Cup rematch. Salak, Panacek and Pestuka started on Carolina’s second line in their second season of playing with the Winston-Salem squad and it was from this line that the first goal of the 2023-24 season game. Pestuka found the net with help from Pestuka at the 7:35 mark to make things 1-0 good guys. Danbury would answer with two of their own. One in the first and a second in the junior frame.

Jan Salak would add the third point for the Czech line as his goal at even strength. Salak had help from Czech liner Panacek to even things up and bring the points total to 4 from the line.

Calib “Gus” Ford would start his 2024 scoring total off with the Thunderbird’s last two of the night and when the final horn sounded it was 4-2 Birds.

Panacek’s two assists gave him his 200th point in a Thunderbirds sweater and earned him the night’s 3rd Star.

Saturday things did not go nearly as well for the Birds. Carolina put 35 shots on goal but was only able to get one past Hat Trick’s goalie Connor McCollum. The lone goal for the Birds came from defenseman “Poppa” Joe Kennedy with help from Panacek.

Carolina hosts the expansion Wytheville Blue Ridge Bobcats at home in the friendly confines of the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex Saturday. You can catch all Carolina Thunderbirds games on their YOUTUBE channel.

Pro Tip: It is pronounced “WITH”ville for all you broadcasters needing a hand with that.