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Cowley Stops 37, But T-Birds Fall to Penguins

Feb 7, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.– The Springfield Thunderbirds (22-25-1-1) saw their offense go quiet in a 3-1 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (29-12-3-1) on Wednesday night at the MassMutual Center.
 
Goaltenders Evan Cowley for Springfield and Casey DeSmith for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton each picked up shutouts in their last AHL starts, and neither goaltender blinked through a first period that saw 21 combined shots.
 
Springfield had the best chance to break a scoreless game in the opening 20 minutes, but DeSmith and the Penguins penalty kill came up big, turning away Springfield for more than a minute of 5-on-3 time.
 
After 30 minutes of scoreless hockey, both teams would break the deadlock in short order. It would be the Penguins who strike first, with Gage Quinney jumping off the bench and taking a feed from Reid Gardiner in the slot to beat Cowley over the catching glove at 10:49.
 
That Wilkes-Barre lead, though, would last barely two minutes. At 12:53, the Thunderbirds capped off a lengthy offensive zone foray with Dryden Hunt snapping home his first goal in seven games off a setup from Jayce Hawryluk, which tied the game, 1-1.
 
Springfield's penalty kill would undergo its own lengthy situation in the middle period when Anthony Greco had to sit for a four-minute high sticking double minor. The Thunderbirds escaped that fray without a goal against, but Springfield's discipline would come back to bite them late in the period.
 
After Daniel Sprong drew a hooking minor by streaking by the defense, the Penguins' fifth power play chance finally found its way into the Thunderbirds' net. Sprong himself set it up after rumbling down the left wing. He stopped behind the net and forced a pass to the feet of Thomas DiPauli, who knocked it past Cowley on a second effort to put the Penguins in front, 2-1, at 19:46 of the second.
 
DeSmith and Cowley's splendid nights continued deep into the third. After the Thunderbirds killed off a minor penalty, Eddie Wittchow jumped out of the box and on his next shift parked himself right near DeSmith. With a seemingly empty-net chance to tie the game, Wittchow's backhand bid was snatched out of the air by DeSmith, and the Thunderbirds would get no closer.
 
After another penalty to Springfield in the closing minutes and the goaltender pulled, Garrett Wilson hit the empty net for the second Penguins' power play goal of the night to bring the final score to 3-1.
 
In the loss, Cowley made a career high 37 saves for Springfield, dropping his first game in the last four starts.
 
The Thunderbirds take to the air tomorrow in advance of a two-game series in Charlotte against the Checkers, with a 7:15 p.m. puck drop on Friday before a 6:00 p.m. start on Saturday at the Bojangles' Coliseum.
 
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.
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