Sabers Regain Momentum, Secure Victory Against Thunderbirds

by James Karr

The San Diego Sabers faced a challenging weekend series against the Las Vegas Thunderbirds, securing a consolation win in the final game after two tough losses at Icetown Carlsbad. The Sabers showed resilience in the face of adversity, bouncing back on Sunday, December 10, to claim a 7-4 victory and salvage some positivity from the series.

Photo by Greg Siller

Game 1: Las Vegas Thunderbirds 6, San Diego Sabers 1

The opening game on Friday, December 8, 2023, saw the Sabers on the wrong end of a 6-1 defeat. Despite a goal from Frizado during a shorthanded situation in the first period, the Thunderbirds dominated the scoring throughout the game. Walton, Ciolli, Dufour, Cain, and Cherniak all contributed to Las Vegas' six-goal performance. The Sabers faced penalty troubles, spending a significant amount of time on the penalty kill. Goalie St-Denis-Lacombe made 52 saves but couldn't withstand the offensive onslaught from the Thunderbirds.

Photo by Greg Siller

Game 2: Las Vegas Thunderbirds 5, San Diego Sabers 1

The struggles continued for the Sabers in the second game on Saturday, December 9, as they suffered another defeat, this time with a scoreline of 5-1. Verstegen managed to get the Sabers on the board early in the first period, but the Thunderbirds quickly took control. Slayback, Ciolli, Cherniak, and Orlando all found the back of the net for Las Vegas. Despite a solid effort from goalie Perry, who made 63 saves, the Sabers couldn't generate enough offense to overcome the Thunderbirds.

Photo by Greg Siller 

Game 3: San Diego Sabers 7, Las Vegas Thunderbirds 4

The first period set the stage for what would become a triumphing roar, with Sabers' newcomer Gradin striking first at 7:13, showcasing his offensive prowess. Las Vegas Thunderbirds responded with goals from Belley-Pelletier and Riquinha, resulting in a 2-1 lead for the visitors. The intensity on the ice spilled into penalties, with multiple roughing and cross-checking infractions, setting the tone for a physical encounter.

The second period witnessed a remarkable surge from the Sabers as they netted four consecutive goals. Paganini, Litzinger, Gradin, and Gouin all found the back of the net, turning the tide in San Diego's favor. Despite a major penalty and game misconduct for Therrien, the Sabers' resilience shone through as they established a commanding 5-2 lead.

The third period continued the offensive fireworks as Dufour notched a power-play goal for the Thunderbirds, attempting to mount a comeback. However, the Sabers' Paganini and Ouellet responded with goals of their own, sealing the deal. Morency scored a late goal for the Thunderbirds, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Sabers' lead.

The game featured a total of 10 goals and a flurry of penalties, creating a charged atmosphere at Carlsbad Icetown. Referee Jessica Jones and the linesmen, Brent Tubbs and Harrison Heyer, had their hands full managing the physical play on the ice.

While the Thunderbirds led in shots on goal with a count of 57-33, Sabers' goaltender Vedernikov stood firm, making an impressive 53 saves. His outstanding performance not only secured the victory for San Diego but also earned him the title of the 1st Star of the Game. Baechler, tending the net for Las Vegas, faced 33 shots and made 26 saves in a commendable effort.

Securing this exhilarating win, the San Diego Sabers demonstrated their offensive prowess and secured vital momentum ahead of their upcoming matchup against the Shredders in Long Beach on Dec. 16th. Shortly thereafter, they will embark on a journey to Las Vegas for the USPHL Vegas Showcase.