Mar 15, 2019

UTICA, N.Y. -  The Springfield Thunderbirds (27-25-7-5) received a clutch penalty shot winner in extra time from their All-Star winger on Friday night in a 2-1 win over the Utica Comets (30-26-6-2) inside the Adirondack Bank Center.


In a rematch of netminders from the final 40 minutes of the teams’ last meetings, Michael Leighton of Utica and Chris Driedger of the Thunderbirds had the most noteworthy action in a scoreless first period. Leighton came up with a sturdy denial on a Jonathan Ang one-timer in the opening minutes, while Driedger and the Springfield penalty kill successfully turned away one Utica power play and seven Comets shots through 20 minutes.


Both teams had abbreviated power play opportunities in the opening period, with both teams coming up short in the goal column. Leighton finished his first period with 10 stops.


The two squads had a much more physically intense demeanor in the second period, leading to power plays on both sides. On the Thunderbirds’ second man advantage of the night, little was happening. However, the offensive zone time paid off just three seconds after the power play elapsed.


With Sebastian Repo putting up a screen in front of Leighton, Matt Mangene found a seam on the stick side of the veteran Comets netminder at 5:53. Mangene’s seventh tally of the season made it 1-0.


From that point, the Comets had the majority of the advantage territorially in the period, but Driedger and the Thunderbirds’ penalty kill once again came to the forefront, preventing a tying tally following a Repo penalty. Driedger made saves in all forms, including a lurching stretch with his left arm to pull a loose puck off the goal line right in the heat of the chaos. The Springfield goaltender’s save total ballooned up to 20 through two periods, while Leighton and the Comets held the fort after the Mangene goal with 17 saves on 18 Springfield shots.


After 30 shots and about 50 minutes of action, the Comets finally tied the score at 9:39 of the third. In his first AHL game, Seamus Malone crashed the net and picked up a rebound from a Zack MacEwen shot and lifted it over Driedger to tie the game, 1-1.


The Comets came close to breaking the tie in the late moments of regulation, but the Thunderbirds held serve into the extra period. After three minutes of unresolved action, Anthony Greco picked up a loose puck in center, and the AHL’s fastest man drew a hook and a penalty shot chance. On the ensuing chance, Greco finished his 23rd of the season with a snapper underneath Leighton to give the Thunderbirds the 2-1 win on the first penalty shot goal in team history.


The T-Birds pattern of games every other day will continue after Friday night's affair in Utica, as Springfield returns to the Atlantic Division in a St. Patrick's Day visit to Bridgeport on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.


The Thunderbirds' next home game is set for Friday, March 22 against the Binghamton Devils on another 3-2-1 Friday inside the MassMutual Center, followed by the 3rd annual Pucks N' Paws night on Saturday, March 23 against Laval.


Springfield Thunderbirds 2019-2020 ticket memberships are on sale now and include the best benefits of being a Thunderbirds ticket holder. To learn more about memberships and single game tickets, visit or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).

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