Downing's Blast Propels T-Birds Past Bruins

Oct 7, 2016
Springfield, MA – The Springfield Thunderbirds sent the MassMutual Center crowd home happy on Friday night, prevailing 2-1 in overtime over the Providence Bruins in preseason action.
A scoreless first period saw no shortage of physicality on the part of the Atlantic Division rivals, as the Thunderbirds made two trips to the penalty box in the opening 20 minutes. The Springfield penalty kill though stiffened, led by the steady goaltending of Sam Brittain, who made eight stops in the first period. 
The first period came to its biggest crescendo in the dying seconds. A tangle of bodies congregated by the penalty boxes, leading to the first scrap of the preseason, involving Tony Turgeon for Springfield and Shane Bakker for Providence.
Despite going shorthanded twice in the first period, the Thunderbirds managed to outshoot the Bruins 9-8 in the opening stanza.
Brittain continued to work his magic in the Springfield crease in the second, as the teams remained level past the midpoint of regulation. It would be the Bruins, however, who would break the deadlock, as Kenny Brooks escaped behind the Thunderbirds defense and beat Brittain to the backhand side just over 12 minutes into the period.
Providence received a glorious chance to go up by two when Mark Naclerio was awarded a penalty shot courtesy of a slash by Derek Arnold on a shorthanded breakaway bid. Brittain, however, challenged Naclerio and forced the shot wide on the stick side.
Springfield maintained its power play, and less than a minute later, the Thunderbirds struck to deadlock the score. Graham Black slid a pass to the right corner to Chase Balisy, who then found Rihards Bukarts with a cross-crease pass. The Latvian launched a laser past Bruins goalie Matt Ginn to tie the score at 17:39.
The third period brought with it a bevy of Providence chances, but Brittain continued to provide the answers and stability on a night when the Thunderbirds were prone to penalties.
After regulation came to a close with no outcome resolved, the Thunderbirds put the foot on the throttle to begin the extra session. The fleet-footed Anthony Greco dashed down the right wing side and moved in on goal. His initial backhand try was stopped by Ginn, but Greco recovered to find Balisy in the slot. Balisy then calmly froze the defense and the goaltender before feeding Michael Downing, who launched a one-time laser past Ginn to give the Thunderbirds the 2-1 victory less than a minute into overtime.
Brittain finished the evening with 30 saves, and the Thunderbirds improved to 1-0-0 on the preseason. They get one more preseason tuneup on Saturday when they welcome the Hartford Wolf Pack to the MassMutual Center at 7:05 p.m. 
Tickets to the Thunderbirds' final preseason tilt can be purchased for $10 each on or at the MassMutual Center box office. 
Opening Night packs are available, courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts, for the first regular season home game in Thunderbirds history. Packages start at $75 and feature two Opening Night tickets, four ticket vouchers, a commemorative puck, and a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

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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