Prowlers Earn Three Points In Three-Game Series With River Dragons

By: Jeremy Skiba

The Port Huron Prowlers went down to Georgia for their first three game weekend series to play the Columbus River Dragons. It would also be the last regular season meeting between both clubs. In what would be a weekend for the ages, the Prowlers would only pick up three points in a 6-5 victory Thursday night. The River Dragons would post their first franchise shutout in Friday’s game with the score 9-0.  On Saturday, the Prowlers would fall short with a 11-9 loss but they also would be the first professional hockey team to post its own historical event. Here is a look at how it went down.

In the first game of the series, the Prowlers hung on to dear-life winning 6-5 after going up 6-1 in the second period. On Thursday night, the Prowlers struck first when Matt Stoia found the back of the net on the power play. After picking up a Dave Nippard pass at the point and driving towards the slot, Stoia would fire the puck stick side on Cody Karpinski. Zach Zulkancyz would put the Prowlers up by two when he deflected home an Austin Fetterly pass on a 2-on-1. After picking up a pass from Tom Maldonado in the low slot, CJ Hayes would have the first strike for Columbus, backhanding a puck past Chris Paulin.

The second period would prove to be a wild one, almost similar to a roller coaster. Dalton Jay, Justin Portillo and Matt Graham would tally against Cody Karpinski who would be pulled in favor of Jared Rutledge. Karpinski finished the game with five saves on 10 shots. Dalton Jay would put one past Rutledge early on to put Port Huron up 6-1. But a defensive collapse from the Prowlers put the River Dragons back in the game as they scored three unanswered goals from Ivan Bondarenko, MJ Graham and Parker Moskal. Chris Paulin would then suffer an injury but stay in the game until the end of the second period.

Michael Santaguida would lead the Prowlers out onto the ice in the third period, replacing Paulin for the final frame. Less than two minutes into the period, Columbus would score when Jake Howie would speed into the offensive zone, bank the puck off the boards only to pick it back up and snipe a shot past Santaguida. But Santaguida and the Prowlers would stand tall to close out the game 6-5. Santaguida would make 15 saves in his relief appearance, securing three points for the Prowlers on the night.

On Friday night, the River Dragons completely annihilated the Prowlers with a dominant 9-0 win. Port Huron gave Ville Kaukkila the nod to start his first game since November 1st and also added Jesse Cameron to their roster. Cameron would make his FPHL debut. The River Dragons got on the board with a goal less than two minutes into the first period when CJ Hayes would feed Parker Moskal an easy tip in pass at the top of the crease. In similar fashion, Cameron Dimmitt, parked just above the crease, would tally the second goal for Columbus, sniping home a pass from Moskal.

The River Dragons would add another two goals in the second period. First, Hayes would cut across the slot and backhand a shot to make the score 3-0. 33 seconds later, MJ Graham would drive to the net and backhand a shot stick side on Kaukkila to give Columbus a 4-0 lead.

Columbus would add five goals in the third period with two coming from Jay Croop. Ivan Bondarenko, Jake Howie and Wyatt Trumbley each scored en route to the victory. While the River Dragons played a near perfect game, the Prowlers would be just a step behind, especially in their defensive zone.  Another factor that didn't help their cause was Jared Rutledge recording 35 saves for his first career FPHL shutout and the first shutout in River Dragons Franchise history.

In the weekend finale, the River Dragons defeated the Prowlers 11-9 in a wild competition. With all three netminders plagued by injury, the Prowlers signed veteran goaltender Kelly Curl and broadcaster Jeremy Skiba as an emergency backup goaltender. What made this event monumental was the fact that not only did Skiba serve as the backup goalie but he broadcasted the entire game from the bench, a first in professional hockey history.

The River Dragons jumped out to a 2-0 lead five minutes into the first period but the Prowlers would erase the two-goal deficit with tallies from Dalton Jay, Jarrett Pfeiffer and Alex Gregorich. MJ Graham for the River Dragons would tie the game up at three before the first period ended.

In the second period, Austin Fetterly would strike first but CJ Hayes would answer right back tying the game at four apiece. Parker Moskal would score twice and with a goal from Yianni Liarakos, the River Dragons took a 7-4 lead. But Justin Portillo and Matt Graham would get two back for the Prowlers before the second period ended to cut the deficit to one.

For the final period, the action would go back and forth. Ivan Bondarenko scored, followed by David Nippard. Then, MJ Graham and Vaughn Clouston found the back of the net consecutively for Columbus, putting the River Dragons up 10-7. Nippard and Pfeiffer would bring the Prowlers back in the game with goals coming with four minutes left in the contest but Cameron Dimmitt would score shorthanded to seal the deal and give the River Dragons an 11-9 victory.

Head Coach Joe Pace shared his thoughts on the weekend.

“Regardless of every outcome, I am so proud of this group of guys. It’s tough to get around injuries and suspensions but this group overcame those issues and we gave it our all this weekend,” Pace said. “This week will be important for us to try and recover and get back to being a healthy team. We have a two-game set with Battle Creek up next and we’ll be ready to go next weekend.”

After this weekend, the Prowlers remain in second place in the Western Division with a record of 13-9-3-0. The River Dragons remain in fourth with a record of 8-15-3-1.

The Prowlers will have to face the Battle Creek Rumble Bees this upcoming weekend. Friday’s game will take place in Battle Creek at 7:35 PM and all the action can be heard on On Saturday, the Prowlers will return to Port Huron for an 8:00 PM game. That game can be seen on EBW.TV.