Greco, Hunt Tally in Losing Effort to Phantoms

Oct 15, 2016
Allentown, PA – The Springfield Thunderbirds (0-1-0) could not withstand a three-goal first period from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (1-0-0) in a 4-2 loss on Saturday night at the PPL Center in Allentown.
The Thunderbirds found themselves on the defensive quickly into the first period of its inaugural season, as the Phantoms struck first off the stick of Mark Zengerle just 56 seconds into the first period. Zengerle was parked to the left of Thunderbirds starting goaltender Mike McKenna, and the puck found the new Phantom, who lifted the puck past McKenna to give the Phantoms the early lead.
After both teams took minor penalties that overlapped near the midway point of the period, the Phantoms took advantage of a Thunderbirds turnover to extend the lead.
Just as a Springfield power play was set to begin, Danick Martel found his way behind the Thunderbirds defense, taking a lead pass off a neutral zone takeaway and beating McKenna on a breakaway to put Lehigh Valley on top 2-0 at the 9:52 mark.
In desperate need of a spark, the Thunderbirds received that jolt in the form of the first fight in team history, as Paul Thompson challenged Danick Martel and got a rise out of his bench in the process. 
Just four minutes after Thompson's scrap, the Thunderbirds got onto the scoresheet on a simple play by Anthony Greco. The speedy winger had a right wing shot blocked down by Phantoms goalie Anthony Stolarz, but he got back to the loose puck in the corner and immediately rocketed the puck through the blue paint. It careened off Stolarz and found its way home for the first goal in Thunderbirds history to cut the Phantoms lead to 2-1 with 3:19 left in the frame.
Lehigh Valley, though, had the last laugh at the close of the period. On a power play following a penalty to Michael Downing, T.J. Brennan, fresh off his second Eddie Shore Award for best AHL defenseman, maneuvered to the slot and rifled a perfect shot over the glove of McKenna to make it 3-1 with just four seconds left in the period.
After the stumble in the first period, the Thunderbirds took it upon themselves to think "shoot first" in the second, and that manifested itself in the form of 18 shots on the net. However, Stolarz came up with every answer.
Stolarz's strong period was not without its assistance from the iron, however. On four occasions, the Thunderbirds caught posts or crossbars. Jakub Kindl clanged it off iron twice in the span of just a minute on a powerplay, while MacKenzie Weegar also was dealt the iron unkind on two occasions himself.
The only goal of the middle frame came off the stick of Martel, who finished a two-on-rush with a shot past McKenna at the 2:50 mark of the period.
The Thunderbirds remained vigilant in their shooting gallery mantra in the third, finishing their night with 33 attempts at the net, but ultimately, they ran out of race track.
Dryden Hunt did pick up his first goal at the AHL level, however. The 20-year-old, fresh off a 58-goal season with the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, set himself up in the high slot on a power play, where he one-timed a Chase Balisy pass through Stolarz.
The Thunderbirds knocked on the door moments later when they garnered a five-on-three advantage, but succeeding penalties on Springfield blew up the power play chance, and the Thunderbirds never recovered.
McKenna finished his night with 31 stops, while Stolarz made 31 of his own in the victory.
It will be a quick turnaround for Springfield following the debut on Saturday, as the Thunderbirds will travel to Bridgeport for a tangle with the Sound Tigers on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on NewsRadio 560 WHYN.
The Thunderbirds will open their home ice schedule at the MassMutual Center on Saturday, Oct. 22 for Opening Night presented by MGM Springfield against the St. John's Ice Caps. Preceding the game is the T-Birds Tailgate from 4-6 p.m. at Court Square, adjacent to the MassMutual Center. 

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).

Back to All