Guentzel Hat Trick Provides Knockout Blow to T-BirdsDec 27, 2016
(Photo Courtesy Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)
Wilkes-Barre, PA – The Springfield Thunderbirds (11-12-3-2) received a stellar performance from a returning leader on the blue line, but the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (21-5-3-0) received three goals from their leading scorer in a 5-3 win on Tuesday night inside the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
In the first two games of the season series between the Thunderbirds and Penguins, a total of four goals were scored between the two games. On Tuesday night, the two clubs combined for a four-spot in the first period alone.
Adding to the strange nature of the night, it was the Thunderbirds’ power play, which entered at 1 of its last 17, that did in the Penguins, the AHL’s best penalty killing club entering play (90%). Playing in his first game back since Nov. 25, MacKenzie Weegar opened the scoring at 3:33 for Springfield. Weegar walked to the high slot and teed up a knuckling slap shot that beat Tristan Jarry to give the Thunderbirds the 1-0 edge.
Weegar’s fifth goal of the year proved to only stand up for 2:10. Penguins’ rookie phenom Jake Guentzel picked up the tying marker as he picked the puck up along the left-wing wall before sliding a backhander between the wickets of Mike McKenna to tie the score, 1-1, at 5:43.
Once again, though, the Penguins’ normally automatic penalty kill once again yielded one. On the back end of a double-minor advantage, Tim Bozon took a snap shot that rose over the shoulder of Jarry at 9:18 to give Springfield a 2-1 lead.
But as was the theme of the first, Guentzel was there to pick his team up from behind. This time, the rookie found his way to the front of the net and fielded a bouncing rebound off a Tom Kostopoulos pass to beat McKenna with just 31 seconds to play in the period.
Compounding the issue for the Thunderbirds, Greg McKegg and Mike Downing each took minor penalties in the final 15 seconds of the period, resulting in a 5-on-3 advantage for the Penguins to start period two.
The Penguins, in turn, made the Thunderbirds pay for the two undisciplined plays, as Guentzel completed his hat trick at 1:17 of the second, tipping a David Warsofsky pass through the legs of McKenna to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton its first lead, 3-2. Springfield saw its deficit rise just 1:04 later when Garrett Wilson beat McKenna off a feed from Warsofsky, who picked up his third assist of the night. Wilson’s shot tipped off a Thunderbird stick before sneaking past McKenna.
Springfield would not go away quietly despite being outshot 31-15 through two periods. After having a goal wiped out due to illegal contact with the goaltender, the Thunderbirds bounced back quickly, and Weegar wristed home his second goal of the night and sixth of the season, beating Jarry on the stick side with less than 3:30 left in the period.
The Thunderbirds had no shortage of opportunities in the final period, with a pair of power play chances and then a late 6-on-5 advantage with McKenna pulled, but Jarry and the Penguins refused to lose their lead in securing their seventh consecutive triumph. Cameron Gaunce added an empty-netter to finish the scoring. McKenna finished the night with 35 saves for Springfield.
The Thunderbirds will not get a chance to rest for long following the Tuesday night tilt in Wilkes-Barre, as they travel to Bridgeport for a meeting with the Sound Tigers on Wednesday at the Webster Bank Arena at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Springfield returns home to close out 2016 for a New Year's Bash against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday, Dec. 30 at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tickets are available by visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or by calling (413) 739-GOAL.
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.