FAYETTEVILLE, NC – While many teams employ a goalie tandem, the Fayetteville FireAntz have used a different strategy to climb the standings. Goalie Sean Bonar has been the guy for the FireAntz this season, and to no one’s surprise who follow the FireAntz, Bonar got the start and won his 20th game of the season, 8th in a row, to back the FireAntz to a 6-3 victory over the Columbus Cottonmouths.
While the goaltending and defense of the FireAntz have been nothing short of spectacular during the recent surge in the standings, you have to score goals to win games. The FireAntz have been no slouch when it comes to putting pucks past opposing goaltenders either.
Before ten minutes had passed in the game Saturday night against Columbus, the FireAntz had lit the lamp three times and had seemingly ended the game before it got a chance to get going. The fans at the Crown Coliseum didn’t seem to mind though as Evan Dixon got the scoring started a little over 4 minutes into the game off a nice cross-ice feed from Joe Kalisz. The goal was only Dixon’s 2nd of the season, but he would strike again later in the game off a turnover from Cottonmouths goalie Mavric Parks.
Jake Hauswirth struck on the power play after Dixon’s first goal, sniping a laser wrist shot into the top corner of the net from the slot to make it 2-0 FireAntz. The goal was Hauswirth’s league-leading 21st goal of the season, 10 of those coming on the PP. Soon after Hauswirth did what he has become known for, Kalisz deposited a nifty backhand past Parks to give the Antz their three-goal lead just 9:16 into the game.
After the frantic pace the FireAntz set to start the game, the game calmed down some. The Cottonmouths began to increase the pressure on Bonar and the Antz. Bonar was up for the challenge, making a huge kick save on a breakaway attempt by the Snakes Alex Taulien to keep the score level at 3-0. Later in the middle period, Bonar brought the crowd and his teammates to their feet and skates by making 3 point blank saves while he was on his back without a stick.
The Cottonmouths were able to solve the Great Wall of Fayetteville that is Bonar on a PP in the middle period when Ben Bauer floated a shot from the blue line that snuck past Bonar into the top of the net through a screen. Keegan Bruce, the Cottonmouths goal scoring leader, tucked a puck past Bonar after some nifty passing from the behind the net to give the Snakes their second goal and then late in the game, Alex Kromm blasted a slap shot past Bonar to give the Snakes their third and final goal. It was too little too late though as the FireAntz got two goals from Evan Dixon and a goal each from Hauswirth, Taylor Thompson, Joe Harcharik, and Joe Kalisz.
Taylor Thompson finished the game with two points to vault into the league lead for points with 37. Bonar finished with 33 saves on 36 shots and now leads the league in wins, minutes played, and goals against average. Bonar is second in the league for saves made and 3rd when it comes to saves percentage. The FireAntz are now alone in 4th place in the SPHL with 45 points, only 1 point behind the Mississippi Riverkings, who have played five more games than the FireAntz. The Cottonmouths fell to 11-21-2 on the season, last place in the standings.
SinBinFireAntz Stars of the Game:
★: Evan Dixon (2 goals)
★★: Sean Bonar (33 saves and 20th win)
★★★: Taylor Thompson (1 G, 1 A)