GRECO'S 2ND HAT TRICK SPARKS T-BIRDS PAST DEVILSMar 22, 2019
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (28-26-7-5) erupted for seven tallies and yet another Thunderdome hat trick in a 7-2 win over the Binghamton Devils (24-36-6-0) on Friday night before a crowd of 6,010 inside the MassMutual Center.
The Thunderbirds’ power play had undergone some rare struggles heading into Friday’s action, going three games without a power play goal for the first time in the 2018-19 season. That streak would not even come close to reaching a fourth straight game, however. On their first power play chance of the night, Anthony Greco moved up the right wing side and took a shot off the far pad of Binghamton goaltender Cam Johnson. With a juicy rebound waiting to be pounced on, Juho Lammikko reached the puck and blasted it into the yawning net to make it a 1-0 game at the 10:07 mark.
Springfield’s penalty kill answered the bell twice in the opening 20 minutes as their torrid percentage continued. The Thunderbirds had entered Friday’s action going 38 for its last 40 with a man down. After a pair of first-period kills, Greco added to the Thunderbirds advantage with his 24th of the season at the 14:56 marker. After rookie Adam Rockwood, in his AHL debut, found Greco on the left side, the Thunderbirds’ All-Star winger curled out to the left circle before turning 180 degrees to fool Johnson between the wickets to extend Springfield’s lead to 2-0.
Former T-Bird Sam Kurker thought he had brought the Devils back to within a goal with 20 seconds left in the opening period, but he was ruled to have kicked the puck past Chris Driedger, thus nullifying the goal.
Otherwise, Driedger held down the fort at his end of the ice in the first, turning aside all nine shots, including a pair of 2-on-1 denials.
Springfield added to its lead to begin the second, as Thomas Schemitsch took a drop pass from Jean-Sebastien Dea and snapped a bar-down snipe over Johnson’s right arm to make it a 3-0 game at 8:08 of period two.
The game took on a more hostile feel following the Schemitsch goal, and Bobby Farnham was in the middle of it, scrapping with Ryan Schmelzer of the Devils, resulting in matching minors at 13:01. Both teams would take an additional minor each, and after the ever-rare 3-on-3 regulation time frame ended, the Devils took advantage on a two-man advantage.
After serving his penalty time, Schmelzer rejoined play and smacked a one-timer from the left circle over Driedger’s shoulder to get Binghamton on the board at 15:53, making it 3-1, a score that would carry into the final frame.
The Thunderbirds then opened up the floodgates on the scoring and penalty minute sides of the score sheet in the third. Blaine Byron scored his first goal since his return from injury at 3:00 when he picked up loose puck in the slot and patiently outwaited Johnson to the far post to make it 4-1.
Greco returned to the spotlight with his second of the night when he banked one off Johnson from the left side again at 5:23 to raise the score to 5-1. Binghamton would get one back from Nikita Popugaev on a power play at 6:24 to make it 5-2, but it only delayed a further Springfield onslaught.
Moments after picking up another man advantage, the Thunderbirds went right to work, as Matt Mangene hit Greco on the right side, and the T-Birds’ All-Star picked the corner over Johnson’s shoulder to pick up his second home-ice hat trick of the season and 26th goal overall, making it 6-2 at 11:06.
Springfield added a third power play strike for good measure when Schemitsch rifled in his second of the night at 14:35. Riley Stillman picked up his third helper of the night on the play. A testy final 10 minutes of the game resulted in a combined 102 penalty minutes between the two clubs on the evening, the highest total in any Springfield game this season.
Notably, Jean-Sebastien Dea tallied two more assists to reach 10 points in 10 games as a T-Bird, while Adam Rockwood picked up an assist in his first AHL game. Driedger’s 13th win of the season needed only 18 saves, while Johnson stopped 33 of 40 for Binghamton.
The T-Birds try to carry the momentum into Saturday’s Pucks N’ Paws Night against Laval. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.
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 www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625)