Late Miracle Comeback Comes up Just Short

Dec 22, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (15-10-2-3) exploded for three goals in the third, but a remarkable four-goal comeback try came just one tally short in a 5-4 loss to the Providence Bruins (13-13-5-0) on Saturday night inside the MassMutual Center.

Both teams jumped out of the gate with dangerous chances in the opening minute, but goaltenders Dan Vladar of Providence and Michael Hutchinson of Springfield kept the score deadlocked through a breakneck opening minute.

Providence then nearly cracked the scoresheet when Mark McNeill moved down the left wing with a short-side wrist shot that clanged off two posts but stayed out.

Later in the first, though, McNeill would end a personal two-month goal scoring drought when he jabbed home a power play one-timer at 14:45 off a setup from Ryan Fitzgerald to open the scoring, 1-0, at 14:45.

Springfield would let a power play chance to respond, and they did just that, as Harry Zolnierczyk found Thomas Schemitsch on a cross-seam pass in the right circle, and Schemitsch stuffed home his third goal of the season at 15:31.

That 1-1 tie would last only 1:08, however. Ian McCoshen lost an edge and fell to the ice deep in his own zone, and Anton Blidh took advantage to find Karson Kuhlman in the slot, and Kuhlman’s wrist shot clanged off the post and in behind Hutchinson to make it a 2-1 game into the first intermission. Providence held a 12-7 shot advantage through the opening 20 minutes of hockey.

Even though the Bruins only registered eight shots in the second, Providence made the most of it. Their power play continued to slice through the Thunderbirds’ penalty killing efforts, beginning with a goal by Jordan Szwarz coming down the right wing of the offensive zone. His slick forehand slide under Hutchinson’s legs knocked the Springfield starting netminder out of the game.

Sam Montembeault came on in relief, but he was put into a fire when the Thunderbirds were forced to kill a five-minute major to Ryan Horvat. Springfield got through the full five minutes, but on a 3-on-1 moments after the penalty time ended, Szwarz hit Peter Cehlarik, who in turn beat Montembeault to make it 4-1 at 16:26.

Providence did not take long to score their third power play goal of the night when Connor Clifton beat Montembeault with a right point wrister at 19:39, just 12 seconds after the Bruins’ fifth power play had begun.

With a 5-1 deficit heading into the third, rather than keel over, the Thunderbirds exploded for three goals in a 1:50 span to get back within a goal. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that just moments earlier, the Thunderbirds had squandered 1:50 of 5-on-3 time.

Patrick Bajkov opened the run with a one-touch shot through Vladar off a set-up from Dryden Hunt behind the net at 10:57.

Just 1:28 later, Hunt himself got his 11th of the year by getting in front of Vladar and deflecting a one-timer from Ludwig Bystrom into the twine to make it 5-3.

Just 22 more seconds later, Paul Thompson crashed the net and batted home a rebound after both Matt Marcinew and Joel Lowry had whacks at the puck near the goal mouth.

In the end, though, the T-Birds' attempted miracle came up one goal shy, as the Bruins survived a final-minute push to take the 5-4 win.

Springfield departs for the holiday break before closing their homestand on Friday, Dec. 28 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit to learn more about 2018-19 Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including the lowest prices for the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit

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