To paraphrase the circa 1974 bumper sticker celebrating Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent, “only the Lord saved more on Saturday night than Delaware Thunder netminder Aaron Taylor.” The 23-year old goalie turned aside 49 of 51 Port Huron shots en route to a 6-2 Federal Prospects Hockey League victory at McMorran Arena and a weekend split with the host Prowlers. Port Huron launched 54 shots in an 8-5 victory on Friday night.
Taylor was simply spectacular between the pipes, preserving a 1-1 tie through the first 40 minutes while making 31 saves. Simply put, this victory was “Taylor-made.”
“Aaron Taylor was on fire for us on Saturday night,” said Thunder head coach Charlie Pens, Sr. “And our defense, led by Charlie Pens, Jr., was in shutdown mode. They kept it simple, clearing pucks and making the right plays. Then, our offense capitalized on some of our opportunities.”
The Thunder offense finally took the lead for good when leading scorer Ryan Marker netted his 24th goal early in the 3rd period. Forwards Taylor Cutting added his 5th just 3:20 later, and Evan Macintosh tallied his 3rd to give Delaware a 4-1 lead.
After the Prowlers cut the lead to 4-2 with a shorthanded goal, defenseman Bryce Litke netted his 2nd of the year, followed by another Macintosh red light.
Marker finished the weekend ranked 2nd in the FPHL for goals and points (47), and in 5th place with 23 assists.
Forward Ryan Contratto’s 9th goal had given the Thunder an early 1-0 lead before the Prowlers tied it up, 1-1 with a power play tally late in the 1st session.
Saturday’s fight card begin midway through the 3rd period when Delaware defenseman Jordan Clarke tool on Port Huron defenseman Joe Pace, Jr. Less than six minutes later, Thunder blueliner dropped the mitts with rival forward Nippart. Just :26 later, Cutting threw down against forward Alexander Gregorich. During that skirmish, Clarke and Prowler forward Justin Portillo each earned 10-minute misconduct penalties.
In Friday’s game, the Thunder erased an early 2-0 Prowlers’ lead by scoring three times in a 2:22 span late in the opening period and again early in the 2nd for a 4-2 lead. Forward Anton Kalinin opened and closed the explosion with his 9th and 10th markers of the season, while Contratto and Marker also let the lamp.
The Prowler offense provided their own answer with four goals in a 9:55 clip to recapture the lead, 6-4. Port Huron, which outshot Delaware 54-34 as goalie Taylor made 46 saves, added two 3rd period goals around one by the Thunder’s Thomas Munichiello to finish the scoring.
Delaware’s Clarke dropped the gloves with Port Huron forward Nippart midway through the 2nd period in the only show of fisticuffs. The Thunder finished the weekend with a 7-16 record for 21 points, good for 5th place, 14 behind 4th place Elmira in the FPHL’s Eastern Division. The Prowlers are at 12-7-0-3-0 for 42 points in 3rd place, one point behind 2nd place Danville.
The Thunder was without defenseman Egor Kostyokov, who on Tuesday was called up by Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Delaware has waived forward Weng To, and signed free agent forwards Nathan Chasteen and Nikita Sidenko – both of whom skated in Saturday’s game in Port Huron. The 24-year old Chasteen from Peoria, Illinois skated for two games last season with his hometown Rivermen of the SPHL. The 21-year old Sidenko, from Petropavl, Kazakhstan, has played for two FPHL rivals this season, notching an assist in five combined games with Mentor and Battle Creek.
The Thunder returns home to host the Eastern Division-leading Danbury Hat Tricks on Friday and Saturday night, with both opening puck drops scheduled for 7:05 p.m. EST.
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