Series Preview: Prowlers, Birds Open Playoffs Again

For the third-straight season and fourth-straight playoff appearance the Port Huron Prowlers will match up with the Carolina Thunderbirds in the first round of the playoffs. Carolina has won all six all-time playoff games between the teams.

The Prowlers finished the regular season 28-22-6 with 84 points, good for third in the Continental Division. They had the same number of wins as the 2022-23 campaign but finished with two fewer points. The team finished middle of the pack in most stats, save for the penalty kill which was last in the league at 74.0%. They played a relatively low-scoring season, averaging under four goals per game for and against. The Prowlers are led by second-year pro Liam Freeborn, who finished with 25 goals, 34 assists and 59 points, all team highs. Alex Johnson plays top minutes on the back end and was named a Continental Division First Team All Star after a 41-point campaign. In net, Port Huron has three netminders, Ian Wallace, Makar Sokolov and collegiate addition Oscar Wahlgren. Each of the three netminders made three starts over the team’s final nine games.

The Thunderbirds were second in the Continental at 40-12-4 with 116 points, good for the same number of wins as last season and just one point shy of their 2022-23 total. They scored the third-most goals in the FPHL while giving up the second fewest. Carolina’s power play finished in the top half of the league but the penalty kill was slightly below average. FPHL Forward of the Year Gus Ford runs the show for the Thunderbirds as he led the way in goals (42), assists (46) and points (88) while playing in just 43 games during the year. His goal and point totals were second in the FPHL and he finished third in assists. His supporting cast includes Dawson Baker and Petr Panacek, who were Continental Division First Team All Stars, and Roman Kraemer, who was named to the Continental Division Rookie All Star. Joe Kennedy is the top blueliner after a 23-point season that resulted in a Continental First Team appearance. The Thunderbirds’ one-two punch in net features FPHL Goaltender of the Year Mario Cavaliere and the red-hot Cody Karpinski who won his last six starts of the regular season. 


Dec. 1 @ Carolina: Thunderbirds 4, Prowlers 1

Dec. 2 @ Carolina: Thunderbirds 3, Prowlers 2 (OT)

Dec. 3 @ Carolina: Thunderbirds 5, Prowlers 3

Dec. 16 @ Port Huron: Thunderbirds 3, Prowlers 1

Jan. 5 @ Carolina: Thunderbirds 2, Prowlers 1 (OT)

Jan. 6 @ Carolina: Thunderbirds 9, Prowlers 5


In their seventh game in nine nights after over 1,800 miles of travel, things got away from the Prowlers early as Carolina built a 3-0 lead in the first 7:29. Every time Port Huron scored to get some life, the Thunderbirds responded with one or two of their own. The nine goals are the second-most the Prowlers gave up in a game this season. 


Prowlers - Tucker Scantlebury (F) - Scantlebury brought his game to a new level in last year’s playoffs with four goals in the two games. His natural hat trick in game 2 was the second in Prowlers playoff history (Dustin Skinner, 2016 semifinals, game 3 vs Danville).

Thunderbirds - Dawson Baker (F) - Baker has been the Prowlers’ boogeyman over the past two seasons. Four goals in four playoff games and has scored the series-winning goal in overtime each year.


Tucker Scantlebury’s (PHP) 2.00 goals per game in last season’s playoffs (4 goals in 2 games) represents the highest average in a postseason in Prowlers’ history…The Prowlers have 7 players on their current roster that played college hockey this season. The Thunderbirds have 1…Gus Ford (CAR) led the FPHL with 13 game-winning goals while Liam Freeborn (PHP) was 3rd with 7…Mario Cavaliere (CAR) led the FPHL in goals-against average (2.34) and save percentage (.925)


Apr. 19, 7:05 P.M. at McMorran Place (Port Huron, MI)

Apr. 20, 7:30 P.M. at Fairgrounds Arena (Winston-Salem, NC)

Apr. 21, 6:00 P.M. at Fairgrounds Arena (Winston-Salem, NC)*

*if necessary

Prowlers playoff packages and game 1 tickets are available at