Defenseman Daniel DiCristofaro just knew he had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Delaware Thunder had already surrendered leads of 2-0 and 3-2 last Friday night against the Danville Dashers, who were threatening to hand them their seventh straight defeat.
Double-D hit the back of the net on a Thunder power play with 8:08 left in front of a supportive ThunderDome crowd in Harrington, Delaware for a 4-3 lead. Then leading scorer Ryan Marker hit an empty net to put the exclamation point on a 5-3 victory over a solid Danville (20-8-0) squad to snap a six-game Thunder losing streak.
The visitors exacted some revenge on Saturday night with a 4-2 triumph and finished the weekend in second place in the Federal Prospects Hockey League’s Western Division. The Dashers’ 30 points lead third place Port Huron by five, and trail first place Carolina by 16.
Friday’s victory was also delivered by goalie Aaron Taylor, who made 40 saves as the Thunder was outshot 42-26. Marker opened the scoring in the first period and Evan Mackintosh added a shorthanded goal in the second session to give Delaware a 2-0 lead after two. Danville scored twice on the power play to tie it at 2-2. After forward Anton Kalinin gave the hosts a 3-2 lead, the Dashers tied it again at 3-3 less than two minutes later.
“To be very honest, the officiating has been (challenging),” said Thunder head coach Charlie Pens, Sr. “If we play five-on-five hockey we have at least five more wins (this season).”
The fight card featured four bouts, three of them occurring in the first period. Delaware forward Taylor Cutting took on Dashers defenseman Johan Hogland just 1:09 after the first puck drop, DeCristofaro tangled with forward Mitch Atkins (who received a double minor, but not a major penalty for fighting), and defenseman Charlie Pens, Jr. battled forward A.J. Tesoriero (who earned a double minor for high sticking, but not a fighting major). Pens, Jr. was ejected when he was assessed a game misconduct. In period two, Delaware forward Patrik Tondl dropped the gloves with Danville forward Levi Armstrong.
DiCristofaro was lost to the team just :29 into the Saturday game when he was assessed a boarding major and game misconduct. Kalinin gave Delaware a 1-0 lead in the opening period, but Danville tied it before intermission. The Dashers scored twice (once on the power play) in the second period before Marker cut the lead to 3-2. Danville scored a third period power play goal against goalie Morgan Hudson, who made 36 saves as Delaware was outshot 40-31.
“We are a very good team and we improve each week,” said Pens, Sr. “We’re making adjustments such as trades and the roster will change regularly until I find the right fit.
“Our penalty kill is one of the best in the league and we just have to get more balanced scoring,” he added. “We should be fine. This is a very good league and we will continue to work hard until we have the team I am happy with.”
On Tuesday, the Thunder traded forward Eli Kinsman (one goal, three points in three games) to the Battle Creek (MI) Rumble Bees for defenseman Bryce Litke (one goal, four points in nine games). Litke will be in the lineup when Delaware visits Columbus (GA) this weekend to face the River Dragons beginning at 7:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday, and 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Columbus Civic Center.