Bruins Best T-Birds in Shootout to Kick Off Rivalry

Nov 19, 2016
Springfield, MA– The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-5-2-2) again needed extra time on Saturday at the MassMutual Center, but could not squeak out a win over the Providence Bruins (5-6-3-1), who prevailed 5-4 in a shootout in front of a crowd of 5,238.
The Thunderbirds, who entered play Saturday having scored multiple first period goals in each of their last two losses, continued with their strong first period performances, even if it took an early deficit to kick the attacking sticks into gear.

The Bruins looked to set the tone in the Atlantic Division rivalry’s first installment when former Springfield Falcon Alex Grant crept to the goal line and jammed home a rebound off a Matt Grzelcyk shot to give Providence the game’s opening goal at 4:12 of the first. 

Springfield was gifted a chance to tie the score with a power play less than two minutes later, but managed only one shot on that man advantage. However, the power play gave the Thunderbirds an extra wake-up call, and moments after the power play’s expiration, Josh Brown picked up his second pro goal in two games. The 6-foot-5 defenseman picked up the puck at the right point from Juho Lammikko and snapped a quick wrister.

Veteran Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin got a piece of the try with his glove and shoulder, but could not smother it as the puck fell behind the goaltender and over the goal line to tie the score at 8:59 of the first.

Brown was not finished, though, and with just over five minutes to play in the frame, the Thunderbirds defenseman again took a pass from Lammikko and made a quick stutter step move at the line. Freeing up a shooting lane for himself, Brown then fired a high wrist shot toward the goal. Standing about 20 feet outside the crease, Ryan Horvat deftly deflected the puck off the ice, and the ensuing tip eluded Khudobin on the bounce to give Springfield a 2-1 edge at 14:51. 

In the Springfield goal, Reto Berra only needed to face one shot after the Grant goal, stopping five of six tries in the period.

Berra would be much busier in a second period that began with some controversy. After it appeared the puck may have tipped off the Thunderbirds bench, Mike Sgarbossa took a pass from Dryden Hunt, and in his first game in Springfield, he finished for his first goal as a Thunderbird at 6:38 to give Springfield the 3-1 lead.

From there, the Bruins turned their frustrations into an offensive onslaught as the second period continued to be a problem for the Thunderbirds. First, Peter Mueller shuffled a power play rebound over the glove of Berra to make it a 3-2 score at 9:53.

Not even four minutes would pass before the Bruins would tie the score, as Peter Cehlarik pounced on a rebound following a blocked shot to rifle a half-slapper past Berra at 13:17.

Right as it appeared the Thunderbirds would escape the period in a tie game, the Bruins reached back for one final punch to end the second. On a give-and-go off the rush, Colton Hargrove crashed the front of the net and tapped a Berra kick save into the twine off an initial shot from Chris Porter.
With the Bruins’ three-goal second period on Saturday, the Thunderbirds were outscored in second periods by a margin of 7-2 over three games this week in Hartford, in Utica, and at home on Saturday. 

The Thunderbirds rebounded in the third to the tune of a 20-shot final frame, but until the game’s final 1:05, they could not dent Khudobin.

Finally, at long last, with Berra on the bench for an extra attacker, Springfield emptied the tank and got the reward of a tying goal from Paul Thompson, who extended his franchise record point streak to five games with his fifth goal of the season.

As Thompson entered the offensive zone, MacKenzie Weegar wound the puck around the glass. With Khudobin exiting the net to stop the puck, a weird part of the corner boards created a deflection that pushed the puck into the slot area. Thompson won the race to the loose disc before a diving Khudobin could get back to his crease, resulting in the game’s tying goal.

The Thunderbirds could not continue their offensive fury in the extra period, as the Bruins controlled the puck for close to the full duration of the 3-on-3 play. Berra made four necessary saves to force the game to a shootout.

However, for the second time this week, the Thunderbirds could not find a shootout goal, as Sgarbossa, Thomas Schemitsch, and Chase Balisy all fell victim to the veteran goaltender Khudobin. At the other end, Cehlarik elevated a wrist shot past Berra for the only goal in round two.

The Thunderbirds have picked up points in three straight games, but have not been able to pick up two points in a night in any of the past four games, the longest such streak in franchise history.

The Thunderbirds take some time off with the Thanksgiving break on the horizon. They will return from Thanksgiving with a home-and-home series with the Hershey Bears, beginning Friday, Nov. 25 at the MassMutual Center. The night marks the return of $1 Nights and the MGM Springfield Pregame Concert Series, featuring Eagle Eyes.

Nov. 25 will also bring about the awareness of men’s prostate cancer for No-Shave November. Fans can purchase special Relay at the Rink packs, with portions of proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society. Tickets for the special evening, presented by Baystate Health and Health New England, can be purchased via
Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds Season 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).
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