The Berlin River Drivers took to the road this past weekend, falling to Danbury 6-1 Friday and then traveling north to defeat the Cornwall Nationals 4-3 on Saturday evening. Berlin is currently 11-9-1-3 in the Federal Hockey League, in third place just two points behind the Danbury Titans.
The River Drivers roster has seen some new faces. Goal tender Matt Kaludis has been loaned to Evansville of the (SPHL), and standout defender Bryan Dallaire was loaned to Pensacola (SPHL). Defensemen Kristaps Nimanis and Edgars Ozolins did not make the trip to Danbury, to play the Titans. They were in the process of obtaining their visas to play in Cornwall on Saturday night. That had head coach Andre Niec put the jersey on to help bolster the small roster against the Titans.
Danbury got two goals from stand out Dalton Jay and scored four goals in the second period en-route to a 6-1 victory. The Titans peppered River Driver goal tender Garrett Storms with 24 shots in the second session. Berlin's Pavel Kubena scored the lone River Driver goal in the second period. Kubena's 10th goal of the year was set by Dominik Synek and Matt Fuller.
On Saturday, there were four new faces on the Berlin bench. Three skaters were getting a tryout, and new goal tender, Cory Simons, was thrust into action between the pipes. The River Drivers also signed Vojtech Zemlicka.
The River Drivers got off to a fabulous start with a 4-0 lead and then were able to hold off the Nationals 4-3 in front of 457 fans at the Civic Complex in Ontario.
Berlin's Kristaps Nimanis opened the scoring for Berlin at 11:36 of the opening frame. His first goal of the season was assisted by David Brancik.
There was just 2:42 to play in the first session when Pavel Kubena’s shot trickled past keeper Paul Bourbeau Jr., who was making his first start in goal for the Nationals. Kubena's 11th goal of the winter was set up by line mates Dominik Synek and Jiri Pestuka.
Moments later, Matt Fuller’s third goal this year gave Berlin a 3-0 lead with 1:48 to play. Andre Niec and Patrick Harrison got the helping markers, ending the scoring in the first period.
New River Driver, Chris Martin, pounced on a rebound at 4:56 of the second period to chase Bourbeau Jr. from the Cornwall crease in favor of Nicolas Delongchamps. Veteran John Celli and newcomer Cedric Harvey assisted on the goal.
The Nationals got on the board when Darick Ste Marie banged a rebound past the River Driver's Cory Simons at the 10-minute mark. Exactly two minutes later, Ste Marie found a wide open Anthony Mezzagno, who beat Simons for a shorthanded marker and a 4-2 score.
In the third period, Berlin found themselves down two players for 32 seconds. The River Drivers survived some tense moments, including a couple point-blank scoring attempts. Simons flat out robbed Houde and Mezzagno to keep the two goal edge.
Things got interesting on Houde’s perfectly placed wrist shot, beating Simons high glove side with 5:07 to play in the third period to make it 4-3. The Nationals pulled their keeper but could not get the equalizer. Berlin out shot Cornwall 39-35.
Berlin returns to the friendly confines of the Notre Dame Arena to host arch-rival Danbury in a 2 p.m. start.