Fraser, MI — Motor City is entering the toughest part of their season as the top two teams in the Continental Division are coming to Big Boy Arena.
On Friday night, Carolina, the second team in the division, came into town ahead of the snowstorm and walked into a storm of offense on the ice. Motor City dominated the Thunderbirds with a 5-1 win to earn three points in the playoff push.
Carolina won 5-3 on Saturday night.
The Rockers (22-14-6) jumped out to an early lead securing two goals in the first period. Leading point getter, Scott Coash, opened the scoring with his 27th of the year 3:05 into the first period. Declan Conway had the puck at the end line of the offensive zone and moved it to the corner to Connor Inger. Inger found Coash in the slot and the forward from Plainfield, IL buried the puck with a back-hand for a 1-0 lead.
Tim Perks continued his hot streak as he collected the puck deep in the offensive zone, and found a crashing Cade Lambdin for a one-timer for his fifth of the season and 2-0 lead with 6:15 to play in the first period. Carolina got one back on the only goal the Thunderbirds scored in the second period.
Jiri Pestuka carried the puck down low and centered a pass to Lucas Rowe on the far side post. Rowe slammed the puck past Trevor Babin to cut into the lead 2-1 4:39 into the period. From then on it was all Motor City as the Rockers got a power play goal late in the second period. After a massive fight ensued, the Rockers got even on the scoreboard when Brad Reitter carried the puck from center ice down low into the offensive end. Reitter tried to center the puck but it bounced off the stick of a Carolina defensemen and chipped over Mario Cavaliere and into the net for his fifth power play goal of the season and a 3-1 lead. With 1.5 left in the period Connor Inger charged the net and fired the puck to the nearside and increased the lead to 4-0 for his sixth of the season.
The Rockers added a short handed goal on a pure effort play in the third period with 14:35 left in the game. Lambdin protected the blue line like a rabid wolverine and caused a turnover at the point. As he continued battling for the puck, he chipped it ahead to Coash who had a breakaway. Coash entered the zone and fired the puck top-shelf glove side for his second of the game and his third short handed goal of the season for a 5-1 lead. Trevor Babin played exceptionally well in net stopping 19 shots in the first period. He stopped 10 shots in the second and closed out the third strong stopping eight shots. Babin made 37 saves on the night on his way to earning his third straight win.
After winning on Friday night, the Rockers couldn’t pull off a weekend sweep against the Carolina Thunderbirds. Carolina scored two goals in the third period, and held off a 6-on-5 rush in the last 1:09 to walk out of Michigan with a 4-3 win on Saturday night.
The Thunderbirds were able to get on the board first thanks to a power play with 7:38 to play in the first period.
John Buttitta held the puck along the nearside boards, and gave it up to the point where Joe Kennedy was waiting. Kennedy quickly slid the puck to Dawson Baker on the nearside. Baker walked the puck down into the nearside circle and fired the puck top shelf on a screened Trevor Babin for a 1-0 lead.
Motor City was able to tie the game at 1-1 off the stick of Tommy Cardinal with 9:05 to play in the first period. The puck was cleared by the Thunderbirds to Babin who secured it. He left it for (blank) at the end line who fired a stretch pass to Tommy Cardinal at center ice. Cardinal walked the puck down the far side boards and moved into the slot for a back hand for his 16th of the season.
Carolina regained the lead 8:26 into the second period. Baker controlled the puck along the far side wall and moved it to Buttitta. Buttitt had eyes on the back of his head as he passed the puck to a crashing Josh Koepplinger in the slot. Koepplinger fired the puck to the top-shelf past Babin for a 2-1 lead.
Motor City struggled to get back into the game until Cardinal was able to take advantage of Boris Babik being out of position. Babik made two incredible saves, and was getting up to his seat to make another when Cardinal found the puck on his stick and fired the puck over Babik’s head and under the crossbar for his 17th of the season, for his second of the game. The Rockers and Carolina were tied at 2-2 with 1:52 left in the second period.
It took until the third period for the Rockers to gain a lead as it was chasing goals all night long, but to get the lead took a moment of seconds. 14-seconds in the final frame, the puck was fired in off the stick of Dante Suffredini and was turned away by Babik. During a scramble in front of the net, Connor Inger put in the rebound for a 3-2 lead.
Carolina found a way to not only tie the score, but take the lead with its suffocating forecheck. As Motor City was working to clear the zone, there was a gratuitous giveaway in front of the net that landed on the stick of Justin Pringle. Pringle gathered it in between the hashes and tied the score at 3-3 with 16:14 to play. Two minutes later Joe Kennedy went to work on the blue line and kept the puck in the offensive zone. Kennedy worked the puck down low after taking the long way around and centered the puck to Jan Salak. Salak fired the puck and the rebound bounced to a recovering Kennedy on the far side for a goal and a 4-3 lead.
Butittia earned an empty net goal, 5-3, during Motor City's last final push with 1:09 left in the game.
After the split at home, Motor City has to rebound quickly as it hosts the top team in the Continental Division in the Columbus RiverDragons for a three game series. Games will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased on mcrockershockey.com/tickets.