Monster First Period Propels Columbus to Sweep Mentor; Carolina Up Next

Columbus, GA - The River Dragons exploded to a six-goal first period on Saturday to defeat and sweep the Mentor Ice Breakers 7-3.

As you can guess, the River Dragons got started early with a goal 1:11 into the game from CJ Hayes who went short side on Frankie McClendon after receiving a good breakout pass from Parker Moskal. Columbus would keep the hot start going as minutes later Yianni Liarakos also went short side for a goal on the power play to make it 2-0. Then in a true heat check type play, Moskal centered a pass to Hayes and Hayes had it go off his shin pads and in after being tied up with an Ice Breakers defender. The game was only about 7 minutes old and the River Dragons led 3-0 on five shots and had chased McClendon from the game.

The Ice Breakers would get their first shot of the game after McClendon had been chased and while the goalie change sparked them for a minute or so, the River Dragons went right back to work as Ivan Bondarenko, MJ Graham and Anton Lennartsson combined on a great tic-tac-toe play from behind the net to set up a Lennartsson one timer for a 4-0 lead. Four minutes or so later Bondarenko would get one of his own to follow up his hat trick performance the other night and it was 5-0 Columbus.

Mentor would finally break through at the 17:36 mark of the first when Josh Newberg fired home his first of the year on a wide post shot past Jared Rutledge. Newberg's goal stopped a run of 14 straight the Dragons scored in a row on Mentor.

In the period's dying moments Hayes found himself on a rush against the Mentor defense, he cut across the middle and was able to fire one against the grain on Brant. It slid into the net and the referee pointed goal as the horn sounded in the Civic Center. Protests were abound on the Mentor bench but the call stood and Hayes' hat trick was a go after just 20 minutes.

In the second period Mentor continued to play hard and were rewarded with a goal from Alexander Morrow 6:48 into the second. That goal was complimented with stellar goaltending from Jordan Brant who kept the River Dragons from hitting double digits on this night. Highlight reel saves were abound for Brant but he couldn't keep the period clean as a power play goal from Cameron Dimmitt on a circle to circle pass gave Columbus another five goal lead into the locker room.

In the third the Ice Breakers continued to force the issue and got another goal this time with Declan Conway slamming home a rebound about four minutes into the third. While that was the last goal in the game, the fireworks were still a plenty with many different hockey gatherings and a few players sent to the locker rooms for early showers. While it didn't match the three fight first period that energized the crowd, we did nearly have a goalie fight between Rutledge and Brant after Rutledge was contacted near the end of the game.

Despite the no fight the crowd went home happy seeing Rutledge get the win with 32 saves on 35 shots. Frankie McClendon suffers the loss tonight after his night was over after two saves on five shots.

Columbus now hits the road to take on the Carolina Thunderbirds in the finale of a 3-in-3 weekend for both teams. Puck drop at the Annex is at 4:05 with a 3:35 pregame show on WRCG.

Three Stars of the game

CJ Hayes
Anton Lennartsson
Jared Rutledge