3rd Period Charge Comes Up Short vs. Bridgeport

Jan 20, 2017

Springfield, MA The Springfield Thunderbirds (15-16-5-2) could not complete a comeback try in the final period on Friday night in a 5-3 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (20-15-1-1) at the MassMutual Center.

The seventh meeting between the two clubs started much like the seventh game of a playoff series, with fine attention to defensive details. The Sound Tigers forced the issue, generating no shortage of offensive zone time and pressure in the first half of the period, but could only muster a handful of shots on Mike McKenna, who went 7-of-7 on stops.

At the other end, the Thunderbirds took some time to find their legs, but once they did, they created traffic around Jaroslav Halak, but like McKenna, the Sound Tigers’ veteran goaltender was stable, including during a brief 5-on-3 for Springfield in the final five minutes of the first.

The Springfield penalty kill also held true following a Mike Downing tripping minor. Bridgeport would then get a late power play that carried into period two. 

The Thunderbirds’ penalty kill stiffened to keep the Sound Tigers off the score sheet, and moments after his own penalty concluded, Graham Black opened the scoring. As Anthony Greco chipped the puck into the right wing corner, Chase Balisy dug it off the wall and slid a backhand pass to Black right outside the blue paint. From close range, Black successfully lofted it over Halak to give Springfield the 1-0 lead at 1:22 of the middle frame.

That lead would last for less than two minutes, though. Operating on a third power play just over 22 minutes into action, Steve Bernier deflected a Ryan Pulock half-slapshot through the legs of McKenna to tie the game at 3:02.

The game took on some extra sandpaper following the tying goal, with emotions reaching a fever pitch when Ross Johnston got his gloves up with Sena Acolatse just moments after Acolatse nearly checked the Sound Tiger forward into the Bridgeport bench. 

For his efforts, Acolatse earned his team a power play chance, but Springfield could not connect, and the 1-1 stalemate persisted. Springfield was guilty of a penalty parade, taking five penalty-kill inducing penalties in the frame. In the closing seconds, right when it appeared the Thunderbirds may escape the period in a tie, Bridgeport squeezed out a second goal with the power play. 

This time, Bracken Kearns made his way to the front and jabbed a rebound past a sprawled McKenna at 19:49 to carry a 2-1 lead into the third for the visiting Sound Tigers.

A crazy third period began with some controversy, as Bridgeport felt they scored to take a 3-1 lead off the stick of Josh Holmstrom. However, upon review, the officials deemed McKenna was unable to play his position, and therefore the goal was washed out.

Bridgeport made that a null and void point, however, when Andrew Rowe beat McKenna on a breakaway change-up at 6:50 to give the Sound Tigers the 3-1 lead.

That’s when the Springfield offense stood up from its slumber. First, a pair of rookies combined to bring the score to 3-2, as newcomer Denis Malgin, in his first game in Springfield, patiently drew the puck through two defenders into the right circle before finding Jayce Hawryluk in front for a slam dunk at 7:42.

100 seconds later, Matt MacKenzie tied the score, 3-3, with a dipping point shot that seemed to change direction before beating Halak at 9:22.

On this night, though, the Thunderbirds ran out of firepower, and Kearns’ second goal of the night on a net-mouth scramble at 14:14 provided the game-winning punch for Bridgeport.

The Thunderbirds unsuccessfully attempted to tie the score with McKenna pulled in the final two minutes, and Ben Holmstrom closed the game with an empty-net finish to seal the 5-3 Sound Tigers win. 

Bridgeport improves to a 4-3 edge in the season series over Springfield, while the Thunderbirds have now dropped a franchise-worst five straight on home ice. 

The Thunderbirds continue their sixth separate three-game weekend of the season on Saturday when they visit the Binghamton Senators at the Floyd L. Maines Memorial Auditorium at 7:05 p.m. ET, and then Springfield returns home for its first-ever meeting with the Toronto Marlies on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET. 

Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds Ticket Memberships start as low as $12 per game and feature the most exclusive benefits, including a commemorative jersey. For more information, fans may call the Thunderbirds ticket office at (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.

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