Driedger Denies Late Comeback to Preserve Sweep in LavalOct 20, 2018
LAVAL, QC - In the second of two games north of the border this week, the Springfield Thunderbirds (4-0-0-2) were looking to complete a two-game sweep of the Laval Rocket, (3-4-0-0) and thanks to an excellent performance in net by Chris Driedger and third period goals by Sebastian Repo and Joel Lowry, the Thunderbirds were able to pick up their third straight win overall with a 4-2 triumph.
After Laval’s Michael Chaput was called for holding at 3:38 into the first period, Anthony Greco picked up a loose puck on the right side of the net and scored his fourth goal of the season, putting the Thunderbirds up 1-0 early in the first period. The goal not only gave Greco five games in a row with at least one point, but it was also Greco’s third straight game with a tally.
Henrik Borgstrom took the initial shot that was redirected in front of Rocket goaltender Michael McNiven by Jayce Hawryluk. Both players picked up assists on the goal.
With just under a minute to play in the first period, Laval’s Kenny Agostino went coast to coast, took on three Springfield defenders, and beat Driedger stick side, tying the game up at 1-1. Brett Kulak picked up a helper along with Alex Belzile.
Three minutes into the second period, the Thunderbirds re-took the lead as Jacob MacDonald let one fly with a wrister from the blue line that hit McNiven’s right pad and trickled into the net. Repo and Ludwig Bystrom tallied assists on the goal.
At 12:18 in the second period, the Rocket nearly equalized, but Driedger, on his way to a 38-save performance and his first Thunderbirds win, came up with a huge stop under unorthodox circumstances. Byron Froese took a shot that deflected off a T-Bird defenseman and up high into the air. The puck then hit off the stick of Agostino as it tumbled to the ground. Driedger moved over from left to right across the crease and as he was tumbling to the ice, grabbed the puck with his glove just before it could cross the goal line, preserving the T-Birds 2-1 lead.
The play was reviewed by referees and after finding no conclusive evidence otherwise, the no-goal call was upheld.
Five minutes into the third period, Repo marched into the Laval defensive zone on a 2-on-1 rush and took a toe drag wrister that beat McNiven under his glove from the left faceoff circle, giving the Thunderbirds a 3-1 lead on their first shot of the final period. The goal was Repo’s first North American professional goal, and it proved to be the game winner.
With McNiven pulled and the Rocket pressing, Agostino scored his second of the game off a one-timer from the right blue line, cutting the T-Birds lead to 3-2. Kulak and Belzile both picked up assists on the goal.
After Driedger and his defense came up with a few more huge blocks in the final minutes, Lowry threw the puck into the empty net from center ice to get his first goal of the season, and thus giving Springfield its third straight win overall.
Driedger finished with 38 saves wrapping up first star honors with the performance. The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, scored four times on just 16 shots on goal.
Up next, after a week off, the Thunderbirds take on the Providence at home on Oct. 27, as puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with pregame activities kicking off with the first ever OkT-BIRDfest presented by Spectra Food Services and New Belgium Voodoo Ranger outside the MassMutual Center on Bruce Landon Way, weather permitting, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m..
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com 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 www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.