Checkers Score 3 In A Row to Stun T-BirdsDec 3, 2017
Charlotte, N.C. – The Springfield Thunderbirds (9-15-1-0) saw a combination of controversy and special teams letdowns on Sunday afternoon in a 4-3 loss to the Charlotte Checkers (14-8-0-1).
The Thunderbirds came out of the gates with determination and energy on the heels of Friday’s loss, racing out to a 13-8 shot edge in the first period.
Springfield would crack the scoreboard first for the eighth time this season as Alex Grenier chopped a bouncing puck from the slot area toward the goal, squeaking it through the legs of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic at 9:37 off feeds from Maxim Mamin and Juho Lammikko.
Just 3:15 later, operating on their second of four first period power play chances, Tim Erixon made a leaping grab of the puck on a failed clear attempt by the Checkers. Erixon blasted the puck wide of the goal, but it bounced right out to Bobby Farnham on the left side, and the North Andover, Mass. native buried his second goal against Charlotte in four games to make it 2-0 at 12:52.
The Checkers showed some character themselves, though, as Lucas Wallmark tallied his first goal since his return from injury at 13:32 to cut the Springfield lead to 2-1.
The Thunderbirds had a glorious chance to get insurance with a 1:26 stretch of 5-on-3 time, but the Charlotte penalty killers dug deep to maintain the 2-1 deficit.
Springfield would extend its lead in the opening eight minutes of period two. Jayce Hawryluk extended his point streak to four games, tipping it ahead for Curtis Valk on the left wing side. With Hawryluk crashing the middle of the net, Valk threw a saucer pass toward Hawryluk. On its way there, the puck took a detour into the top shelf off the stick of a Charlotte defender to make it 3-1 at 7:29.
From there, the Checkers once again responded in a second frame that saw them outshoot Springfield 11-7. The T-Birds fell victim to a Checkers power play for the first time in eleven tries when Patrick Brown beat Harri Sateri at 12:07.
Moments later, on a penalty kill, Grenier was attempting to find his second goal of the afternoon, but Nedeljkovic came up with a breakaway denial. Grenier then tried to bank it home, but Nedeljkovic kept it out with a last-ditch reach. The officiating crew took a second look at the replay, but the call was upheld and the score remained 3-2.
From there, controversy ensued. Just past the 16:00 mark, the Checkers entered the offensive zone on a rush. On what appeared to be an offside play, members of both teams slowed down, but without a whistle stopping play the Checkers carried on, and with another chance to enter the zone, Julien Gauthier beat Sateri through the five hole to tie the game at 16:20 of the second period. That 3-3 tie score would carry into the third.
A tightly-checked third period saw only one goal off a bouncing puck. With Springfield a man down, Aleksi Saarela set up in the slot area and one timed a feed from Nicolas Roy past Sateri with just 5:33 to play. Springfield had two power plays in the final five minutes, but the man advantage again came up empty.
Springfield begins that home-ice stretch with a pair of 7:05 p.m. ET matchups on Friday, Dec. 8 and Saturday, Dec. 9 against Rochester and Bridgeport respectively. Saturday's game marks the 2nd Annual T-Birds Teddy Bear Toss presented by Teddy Bear Pools & Spas.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages start at just $12 per game, and Thunderbirds Full Season Ticket Members receive the most benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug and a commemorative jersey. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.