Abols' OT Tip Gets T-Birds Past Checkers

Feb 15, 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Springfield Thunderbirds (27-23-2-0) snapped a three-game slide by virtue of a 4-3 overtime win over the Charlotte Checkers (29-17-4-0) on Saturday night inside the Bojangles’ Coliseum.


Defensemen made the most noise in the opening period on both sides of the ice. After a quiet opening 10 minutes with limited scoring chances, the offenses awoke in a 90-second span in the closing half of the period.


On their first power play of the night, the Checkers’ third-ranked specialty unit connected on an Oliwer Kaski one-time slap shot from the left circle at 11:27 to break the ice and give Charlotte a 1-0 advantage.


Only 90 seconds would pass, though, before the T-Birds got even. After Aleksi Heponiemi led an odd-man rush into the offensive zone, an errant pass ended forcing Henrik Borgstrom behind the net. Defender Will Lochead sneaked into the slot area, where Borgstrom found him, and the rookie blueliner beat Alex Nedeljkovic on the glove side to even the score, 1-1, at 12:57.


The T-Birds’ carried over strong offensive play into the early stages of the second. While killing a fourth Charlotte power play, Springfield took advantage shorthanded as Jack Rodewald slipped to his backhand in the slot area before lifting a try over the shoulder of Nedeljkovic to put Springfield in front for the first time, 2-1, at 1:35 of the middle period.


It would take just 1:54 more for Springfield to extend the lead as Dryden Hunt was the benefactor of a bouncing puck that came to his tape in the slot off a shot block by Gustav Forsling. Before Nedeljkovic could react, Hunt had finished off his 11th tally of the season to put the Thunderbirds ahead, 3-1.


Philippe Desrosiers was sensational in the second period’s first 19 minutes, as he kept 15 of 16 Charlotte shots out of the net in the period, but Janne Kuokkanen got the Checkers back within a goal at 19:11 to make it 3-2 on a redirection from Chase Priskie. Nedeljkovic then made an incredible cross-crease save on Jake Massie to take a sure goal away and get the game to the final period in a 3-2 score.


Charlotte took little time to equalize, as Derek Sheppard won a race to a loose puck to the left of Desrosiers and shuffled a backhander under the armpit of the netminder to make it a 3-3 tie.


Springfield’s power play had numerous chances to get the lead back, but Charlotte killed off the first five chances of the T-Birds’ night, including a two-minute 5-on-3 and a coinciding 5-on-4.


As the game moved to overtime, the power plays continued for Springfield, but the Checkers stiffened on a 4-on-3 kill in the opening 2:30 of the extra session. However, Anthony Greco drew another Springfield power play when he was tripped racing up the middle of the ice toward a potential breakaway. On the ensuing advantage, Rodrigo Abols picked up a deflection past Nedeljkovic from a Brady Keeper point shot to give Springfield’s its second straight 4-3 overtime victory in Charlotte.


The T-Birds look for a weekend sweep on Sunday afternoon for a 1:00 p.m. matinee sweep against the Checkers.


For Springfield Thunderbirds ticket information, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.


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