Harper Hoists T-Birds to OT Win

Dec 3, 2016
Springfield, MA The Springfield Thunderbirds (8-8-2-2) at long last earned a victorious result in a 3-2 overtime win over the Providence Bruins (8-6-4-3) at the MassMutual Center on Saturday night before a crowd of 4,821 on Teddy Bear Toss and Military Appreciation Night. 
The Thunderbirds made sure that the teddy bears would not have to wait long to hit the ice on Teddy Bear Toss night. Just 1:50 in, after an early surge, Sena Acolatse picked up the puck at the center point off feeds from Ian McCoshen and Ryan Horvat. With bodies in front setting up traffic, Acolatse flipped a wrister that escaped past Bruins goaltender Malcolm Subban to give Springfield the 1-0 lead at 1:50. Acolatse’s fourth of the season marked the fastest goal to start a game in Thunderbirds history.

At the other end, Mike McKenna was not extremely busy, but he came up big following the teddy bear delay to stonewall A.J. White on a bad angle, point blank sneak attack bid. McKenna would only need to make two other saves in the entirety of a first period that saw the Thunderbirds outshoot the Bruins 10-3.

Springfield had a chance to extend their lead on a late power play when Chris Porter was guilty of a cross-check, but the Bruins’ kill maintained their club’s one-goal deficit. 

Not surprisingly, the Bruins bounced back in the second period and they did so quickly. After Jared McCann was guilty of a tripping minor penalty, Wayne Simpson finished off a wonderful passing play to tie the score at 2:32. Danton Heinen fired a cross-zone feed to Peter Mueller on the left wing wall. Mueller immediately threw a slap pass in front to Simpson, who had time to deke to the backhand before beating McKenna.

With some newfound life after scoring their 29th second period goal of the season, the Bruins kept pressing the issue, generating a rebound goal to break the deadlock. At 12:13, Mueller crashed the net and shuffled a backhander through McKenna following a coast-to-coast rush and shot attempt by defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. 

The Bruins entered the third having lost just one game all year when leading after two periods, and they appeared ready to come out on top again, as an early Thunderbirds power play chance in the period was silent for the first 1:50 of man advantage time. But then, McCann missed Paul Thompson on a home-run pass up the right wing. However, that ended up being the best play, as Thompson won a race to cancel icing, got to the puck in the right circle, and one-timed it over Subban to tie the game, 2-2 with 13:35 left on the clock.

Anxious moments awaited both teams in the minutes that followed, with McKenna being asked to make 12 third period saves and Subban asked to make 11, including a spectacular left pad stretching stop on Anthony Greco in the final five minutes. At the other end, the Bruins nearly spoiled the Thunderbirds’ night when Rob O’Gara laced one off the crossbar.

When nothing was settled after the third period’s conclusion, Springfield and Providence reached overtime for the second straight meeting. At 2:12 of the overtime, after a tentative start to the frame, the Thunderbirds put an end to three weeks of frustration. Acolatse, already with a goal and a fight, fielded a pass from Mike Sgarbossa on the left wing side. With a Bruin watching him closely, and with his back to the net, he curled a behind the back, backhanded pass toward the crease. Off the bench jumped Shane Harper to guide the perfect feed in behind Subban to seal the Thunderbirds’ first victory since Nov. 12 in Binghamton. 

With the victory, the Thunderbirds now look to build off the emotion on Sunday when they reacquaint themselves with the Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence for a 3:05 p.m. puck drop.
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).
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