River Drivers play for championship in fifth and deciding game Wednesday

By Ethan Dorval and Jean LeBlanc

BERLIN — The Berlin River Drivers and Danville Dashers will play a fifth and deciding game for the Federal Hockey League championship on Wednesday night in Danville.
Danville defeated the River Drivers 2-1 on Saturday night in Berlin to force a fifth game. Each team has now won two games in the best-of-five series for the Federal Hockey League's Commissioner's Cup.
On Friday night, Berlin's Cole Gunner returned to playoff action, scoring two goals and adding an assist, lifting the River Drivers to a convincing 7-3 win game three in Berlin.

BRDFinals1River Driver Cole Gunner had two goals and an assist in Berlin's 7-3 win over Danville. (JEAN LEBLANC PHOTO)

Gunner opened the scoring at 15:02 of the first period when he beat Danville starting goalie Eddie George off a one-timer from the top of the circle. The Gunner goal was his first of the playoffs and was assisted by Jan Salak and Josh Pietrantonio.

Danville managed to tie the game at 12:57. Gehrett Sargis took an Andrew Harrison pass and beat Drivers' keeper Matt Kaludis to make it 1-1. Seconds later, at the 12:17 mark, Justin Brausen threw a wild shot towards the River Drivers' net. The bad angle shot caught Kaludis unaware, as the puck deflected off the inside part of his pad and ended up in the back of the Berlin net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Berlin tied things up on the power-play with 4:00 remaining in the first frame of action. Jon Celli patiently waited for defenseman Matt Fuller to get into position for the one-timer before sliding a perfect pass over to his teammate. Fuller fired a one-time shot that beat George high, glove-side, just under the crossbar. Fuller's goal tied things 2-2 and was his second in postseason play.

Dominik Synek added a goal at 2:29 in the first period. Walking out of the corner, Synek scored on George on the second of two attempts. The assists on the Synek goal were awarded to Jiri Pestuka and Pavel Kubina.

Salak scored the lone second period goal with just 12 seconds remaining after collecting a Gunner pass that found Salak all alone in the slot. Salak received the puck and in one motion snapped off a wrist shot that beat George high, glove-side for a 4-2 lead. The secondary assist on the River Drivers fourth goal of the game was credited to Pietrantonio.

BRDFinals4Putting pressure on Danville late in the second period was Cole Gunner (No. 21 in white) and his linemate Jan Salak. The duo combined with their other linemate Josh Pietratanio, to score a goal with just 12 seconds left in the second period for a 4-2 lead. (JEAN LEBLANC PHOTO)

Recently acquired Cameron Dimmit scored against his former team at 15:51 in the third period for a three goal lead. Dimmit finished off a play that saw Celli center a pass from below the goal line. Artur Drindrozhik also assisted on the play.

Berlin added another goal in spectacular fashion. This time it was Pestuka that turned his defenseman inside out, making a move from his forehand to his backhand, before tucking a shot under the crossbar. Pestuka's highlight reel effort resulted in a goaltender change for the Dashers and ended George's night between the pipes with Berlin leading 6-2.

The goaltender change sparked the Dasher's offense. Danville's Sargis added his second goal of the game with 11:11 left to play. Sargis found himself behind the River Drivers defense before sending a low wrist shot that beat Kaludis to the far side of the net. Darius Cole and Andrew Harrison assisted on the play.

Gunner sealed the game and the win at home for Berlin with 2:09 left to play, scoring an empty net goal that brought the score line to its final 7-3. At the sound of the siren, the close to 1,000 Berlin faithful were chanting, "We want the cup!!"