By Jean LeBlanc
BERLIN — Veteran forward, John Celli, had two goals and an assist to lead a balanced scoring attack for the Berlin River Drivers in an 8-3 victory over the Cornwall Nationals in Berlin on Saturday.
The River Drivers improved to 13-9-1-3 and currently sit in the second spot in the Federal Hockey League.
The Nationals absorbed their fourth straight loss and are currently tied for sixth place at 7-14-3-1.
The Nationals had a short bench and the River Drivers went to work early blitzing the visitors and peppering goaltender Paul Bourbeau Jr for three goals on 17 shots in the first period. At 1:46, Celli made a good body-check to force a turnover. Artur Drindrozhik made it 1-0 on his 10th goal of the year from Celli and defender Patrick Harrison. The home team went up 2-0 at the 10:05 mark on a beautiful Pavel Kubena lamp-lighter from linemates Dominik Synek and Jiri Pestuka for a 2-0 advantage. The goal was Kubena's 12th on the winter. The River Drivers went up 3-0 on Jan Salak's goal just three minutes later. Linemates Josh Pietrantonio and newcomer Chris Martin had the assists.
Berlin was relentless on the attack and stayed after the Nationals into the second period. At 9:49, Celli netted his first of the game from Drindrozhik and Harrison for the 4-0 lead. Four minutes later it was Synek getting his 16th of the winter from Kubena and Pestuka and a five-goal advantage.
In goal, Berlin's Matt Kaludis was back from his stint in the SPHL. Cornwall scored a power-play goal at 15:29 to make it 5-1. Jean-Christopher Houde got the goal from Anthony Mezzagno and goaltender Paul Bourbeau Jr.
The final period got a little ragged, as a worn out group of Cornwall players got very fiesty and verbal with many of the River Driver players.
At 4:07 of the third period, defensman Kristaps Nimanis notched his first River Driver goal for a 6-1 lead. Pestuka and David Brancik got the assists. Four minutes later Cornwall's Sylvester Bzdyl made it 6-2 and when Celli scored his second of the game and 12th of the year at 13:21, it was again a five goal lead at 7-2.
There was less than five minutes to play when the National's Mezzagno cut the deficit to four goals 7-3. However, new player Chris Martin got his second goal of the year for the River Driver's from Vojtech Zemlicka and Igor Stibysh to make the final score 8-3.
In the Nationals' goal, Bourbeau had 41 saves on 49 shots and Berlin's Kaludis had 22 saves in picking up his ninth win on the winter.
A huge Federal Hockey League match-up takes place this coming Friday night in Berlin. The top ranked 20-4-3-1 Danville Dashers bring their 12-game winning streak to the Notre Dame Arnea to take on the second ranked River Drivers in an 8 p.m. starting time. You can check out the Berlin team at http://www.riverdrivershockey.com/ or on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/GoRiverDrivers/.