Colossal Comeback Falls Just Short vs. CrunchJan 27, 2017
Springfield, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds (16-18-6-2) nearly completed an improbable third period comeback on Friday night in a 4-3 loss to the Syracuse Crunch (21-12-4-5) at the MassMutual Center.
A slow-paced first period littered with line-matching and face-offs reached nearly the 15:00 mark without anything being decided, but a quick transition play in center ice gave the Crunch the early edge.
Cory Conacher navigated swiftly around a Thunderbird checker in center, turning the right wing corner and creating a 2-on-1 with Joel Vermin. Conacher fed Vermin a saucer pass in front, and with Reto Berraanticipating a shot from Vermin, the winger instead dished it back to a crashing Conacher. The give-and-go gave the Crunch the 1-0 lead at 14:37 of the frame.
Springfield thought it had tied the score a few minutes later while shorthanded, as Juho Lammikko beat Adam Wilcox with a sharp wrist shot, but after review, the play was deemed to be just a post-ringer, thus preventing the Crunch from what would have been a league-worst ninth shorthanded goal allowed.
Syracuse carried the 1-0 lead into intermission, but put themselves in a hole to start the second, as an Erik Condra hooking minor put the Thunderbirds on the power play to start the middle frame.
The Crunch killed off that initial Springfield power play, but then had to deal with a strong offensive surge from the Thunderbirds in the offensive zone. The Thunderbirds’ time in the zone would be short lived, though, as a high-sticking double minor gave the Crunch a chance to get insurance.
Despite the extended advantage for Syracuse, it would be the Thunderbirds who picked up a big scoring chance on a 2-on-1, but Wilcox shrugged down an Anthony Greco attempt that would have tied the score.
Springfield killed the entirety of the four minutes, but moments later, Syracuse jumped to a two-goal lead. With Dryden Hunt back in the play, the Thunderbirds were back at even strength, but the Crunch kept the puck alive and fed Mathieu Brodeur at the right point. The big defenseman then uncorked a slap shot past Berra at 11:27 to make it a 2-0 game in favor of the Crunch.
From that point forward, the Thunderbirds had trouble establishing offensive pressure against a suffocating Crunch defense that created neutral zone chaos and held Springfield to just six shots in the second period.
Syracuse appeared to put the game in the bag in the third period when Henri Ikonen scored at 5:43 to put the Crunch up by three. Springfield had a power play chance minutes later, only to see Yanni Gourde beat Berra on a shorthanded breakaway at 11:21 to put Syracuse ahead 4-0.
From there, the Thunderbirds, rather than stay down and roll over, fought back and fought back quickly. Drawing a pair of Syracuse minor penalties within 30 seconds of one another, Springfield went to the two-man advantage, and Jayce Hawryluk spring-boarded a wild final stretch with a short-side goal at 13:53 to make it a 4-1 game.
On the back end of the power play, Kyle Rau found the net in his second consecutive home game, beating his old collegiate teammate Wilcox through the legs at 15:08. Berra picked up the first goaltender assist in Thunderbirds history on the goal.
With Syracuse beginning to show some nerves and a sense of panic, the Thunderbirds yanked Berra for an extra attacker, and following a timeout, Brody Sutter pounced on a rebound off a Sena Acolatse shot to bring the Thunderbirds to within a single goal, 4-3, at 18:28.
With still over a minute to tie the score, the Thunderbirds unleashed one last desperation shift in the offensive zone, but came up empty, as a MacKenzie Weegar high-sticking minor thwarted the comeback try. Wilcox and the Crunch held on as the Syracuse netminder made 26 stops in the winning effort.
Acolatse, Sutter, and Rau all finished with multiple-point nights, and Berra made 22 stops in defeat. Springfield has now lost seven in a row at the MassMutual Center dating back to Jan. 4.
Springfield finishes the weekend with a matchup against Hershey on Saturday at the MassMutual Center as the race for the playoffs begins in earnest. After Saturday's game, the Thunderbirds hit the All-Star Classic break, with their next action not taking place until Friday, Feb. 3 in Providence against the Bruins.
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.