River Dragons Win Game 1 Of Crucial Weekend Series 5-2
Columbus, GA - The Columbus River Dragons started fast and persevered down the stretch to take the first three points of the weekend series over Carolina by a score of 5-2.
Columbus had a huge first period that was started off by Austin Daae firing home his second of the year on a rebound coughed up by Nick Modica to the near circle 3:54 into the game. As the first period moved on Columbus and Carolina each traded chances and it was the River Dragons who broke through again, not once but twice. On a power play CJ Stubbs sniped the top-right corner to make it 2-0 at the 14:14 mark. Then, 20 seconds later, Josh Pietrantonio finds a rebound just to the side of Modica and tapped home to make it 3-0 and send the crowd into a frenzy.
With a 3-0 lead heading into the locker room, Carolina started to battle back and found the back of the net when Jiri Pestuka was left open in front of Rutledge for a 3-1 game 5:55 into the second period.
A relatively tame second period gave way to Pandora's Box opening in the 3rd period.
Austin Daae got his second of the game after a breakaway from Nate O'Brien was stopped by Modica, but then a rebound sat juicy in the crease for Daae to tap in at the 1:46 mark of the 3rd. On that goal, Modica was shaken up with what appeared to be a lower-body injury and couldn't return to the game after that, being replaced by Zack Quinn.
A fight broke out at the 6:09 mark of the 3rd period after a Jake Schultz hit on Jan Salak saw the big Czech lose his helmet and Fred Hein challenged Schultz to drop gloves which the big man was not afraid to. The resulting fisticuffs kept the crowd fired up as the game began to dwindle down.
At the 12:45 mark of the third is when the night from energetic to chaotic though. Following a scrum in the corner between Jake Howie and Petr Panacek, a penalty was set to be called on Columbus during the scrum behind the play. While Ivan Bondarenko carried the puck up ice the referee calling the penalty failed to blow his whistle, which erroneously signaled to Jared Rutledge the penalty was on Carolina. After Bondarenko shot the puck (with the referee's arm still up) Carolina then carried the puck down ice and Joe Cangelosi got his first of the season on an empty net from 100-feet away.
A lot of arguing, shouting and booing ensued but the goal stood at 4-2 with 7:!5 to go in the game.
Columbus would get the last laugh on the ice both on the scoreboard and on the fight card. First a Nate O'Brien goal at the 18:08 mark gave Columbus the 5-2 lead and the eventual final scoreline. Then, 5 seconds later, Chase Fallis and Tommy Cardinal got into a scrap off the faceoff with the Columbus forward ending up on top at the end of the brawl.
Jared Rutledge got his league-leading 7th win of the season stopping 25 of 26 shots in the win. Nate Modica takes the loss with a 20-save effort on 24 shots. Zack Quinn in relief received no decision and made 13 saves on 14 shots.
Columbus and Carolina match up again tomorrow night at the Civic Center with a 7:05 puck drop. Tickets available at the Civic Center Box Office or on TicketMaster.
Three Stars of the Game