Greco Guides T-Birds Past Wolf PackDec 30, 2016
Springfield, MA - The Springfield Thunderbirds (12-12-4-2) rallied behind the energy of a crowd of 5,732 to rattle off a 3-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack (11-16-3-1) at the MassMutual Center on Friday night.
As the Thunderbirds and Wolf Pack kicked off the I-91 rivalry’s Springfield portion, the pace started fast and stayed swift through the opening 20 minutes. The 5-on-5 rhythm was only broken one time for a Hartford power play at 4:35, when Anthony Greco was whistled down for holding.
Mike McKenna was at his active best during the two-minute kill, fending off a Hartford attack that had possession of the puck in the offensive zone for nearly the whole duration of 5-on-4 time.
Springfield, though, did not break, and moments later, it was Greco himself who finished off the opening tally. Brent Regner moved up to generate a 2-on-1 with Greco. The captain patiently curled the puck around a sliding defender before firing a low shot on Hartford goalie Brandon Halverson. The 20-year-old netminder made the save, but kicked the rebound into the slot, where Greco pounced on the miss for his fifth of the year to give the Thunderbirds the 1-0 edge at 6:49.
A tame first period on the penalty sheet gave way to a feisty middle stanza, but not before Springfield and Hartford’s offenses went on a blitz of scoring.
First, Tim Bozon became the first Thunderbird to score in three straight games, as he picked up a loose puck on the left wing wall and surprised Halverson with a low, short-side snapper. Bozon’s sixth of the year at 4:37 gave Springfield a 2-0 lead.
Lamentably for the Thunderbirds, the lead would not last more than five minutes. Wolf Pack captain Mat Bodie spurred on the comeback at the left point at 5:40, stepping around two Springfield defenders before feeding Steven Fogarty, who outwaited McKenna at the left post to ram it home to make it 2-1.
Hartford was not finished, though, and they got some help from a fortunate bounce. After Ian McCoshen made a tremendous kneeling block on a one-time try by Matt Carey, Carey stayed with the puck and fired a shot with one knee still resting on the ice sheet. Shane Harper was the unlucky Thunderbird who found himself back near the net, and Carey’s shot bounced off Harper’s boot and into the goal to make it a 2-2 tie at 8:56.
While the goal scoring for the period was done at the halfway point, the animosity and extracurricular activities were only just beginning. It began with Greco and Steven Kampfer each taking big body checks within seconds of one another, with Josh Brown coming to punching blows with Chris Brown of the Wolf Pack. This came mere minutes after Tanner Glass was whistled for slashing McKenna after a whistle.
Bozon then got caught up in a tiff with Carey, with Carey dropping his gloves over by Bozon by the Hartford bench. The third period came to a close with a deadlocked score and two heated teams.
The Thunderbirds may have only mustered four third period shots, but only one was necessary. Once again, Greco found himself in the center of the action, as he saucered a perfect backhand pass to a streaking Jared McCann, and the creative center faked out Halverson before lifting a backhander to the top shelf at 4:37 of the final period.
From there, McKenna held down the fort, turning aside all eight shots on the Springfield net. He finished the night with 30 saves to snap his personal four-game slide.
Springfield has now won three games in a row on home ice, with nine of the next 14 contests coming at the MassMutual Center.
The Thunderbirds return home to begin a nine-game month of January at the MassMutual Center on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Tickets for the T-Birds' first Winning Weekday are available by visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or by calling (413) 739-GOAL. Should the Thunderbirds win that night, fans in attendance will receive a complimentary ticket to the next weekday game on Weds., Jan. 11 vs. Albany.
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.