Thunderbirds Rally Past Ice Breakers In Shootout
MENTOR, OH - With both clubs skating below full strength thanks to suspensions and injuries, the Mentor Ice Breakers concluded their seven-game season series against the Carolina Thunderbirds with a 4-3 shootout loss on Sunday afternoon at Mentor Ice Arena. With the win, Carolina completed the season sweep of Mentor, logging five regulation wins in addition to a pair of shootout victories.
Ice Breakers forward Declan Conway scored a pair of key goals in regulation while Steven Fowler continued to step up his play, scoring while dishing out two assists and scoring both Mentor goals in the shootout.
The Ice Breakers got off to a slow start against the Thunderbirds, who dressed both head coach Andre Niec and broadcaster Kelly Curl to fill out their lineup. Daniel Martin scored just over three minutes in to give Carolina an early 1-0 lead. Shortly after, Carolina starting netminder Patrik Polivka suffered a noncontact injury after facing only two shots. Polivka was replaced by Jacob Mullen and did not return to the contest.
With Petr Panacek serving a cross-checking penalty, Mentor finally solved its power play woes when Fowler scored tipped home a feed from Chance Taylor, a former Kent State Golden Flash who was signed to a PTO ahead of the game. Conway also chipped in with an assist on the goal, which was Fowler's fifth of the campaign.
At 17:41, Mentor's power play took advantage of a lengthy 5 on 3 when Conway finished a rebound, snapping a five-game goal-scoring drought. Mullen initially made a fantastic save, but he was not able to corral the rebound as Conway took advantage of an open net.
Conway struck again at 12:42 of the second period, capitalizing on another rebound. Fowler carried the puck into the Carolina zone and fired a shot before Conway grabbed the loose puck. Tim Perks also chipped in with an assist, his fourth of the year.
Down 3-1 at the second intermission, the Thunderbirds came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders in the second period. A pair of costly penalties committed by Dzmitry Daniliuk resulted in a pair of Carolina power-play goals by Jo Osaka and Daniel Martin. For Osaka, it was his sixth of the three-game series between the Ice Breakers and Thunderbirds.
Both clubs saw power play chances over the final 15 minutes of the third, but neither took advantage as the game headed to overtime. Carolina controlled the extra period, spending most the frame in Ice Breakers territory, but Mentor netminder Jordan Brant was up to the challenge, stopping all three Thunderbird shots.
Carolina started the shootout with back-to-back goals, putting the pressure on the Ice Breakers. Fowler got Mentor on the board on the Ice Breakers' second attempt, but Brant was injured following the second round, forcing Frankie McClendon into the game after the former Thunderbird spent the entirety of the game on the bench.
After two big saves from McClendon, Fowler kept the shootout going with his second tally. After Jan Krivohlavek and Conway failed to score, a beautiful move by Daniel Klinecky in the seventh round ultimately gave Carolina a 3-2 victory in the shootout and a 4-3 win in the game.
Conway's three-point night gave him 50 points, making him the second Ice Breaker to hit the half-century mark in a single season after Mark Essery's 51-point output last year. Carolina's Stanislav Vlasov assisted on all three goals in regulation and Martin scored twice while contributing an assist.
Mullen played well in relief of Polivka, making 28 saves on 31 shots and stopping five of seven shootout attempts to improve to 4-15-0. The Ice Breakers are back in action next weekend with a two-game series on the road against the Port Huron Prowlers.
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