McCann Paces T-Birds; McKenna Wins 200th AHL GameFeb 19, 2017
Hartford, CT- The Springfield Thunderbirds (20-23-7-2) were witnesses to history on Sunday in a 4-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack (19-28-3-2) at the XL Center. The win marked the 200th in the AHL career of Thunderbirds goaltender Mike McKenna.
The offense came quickly and often in the first period in Hartford, with the Thunderbirds’ All-Star starting the scoring frenzy. At 1:07 of the opening frame, MacKenzie Weegar let go a slap shot from the right point that eluded Hartford goaltender Magnus Hellberg to put Springfield on top, 1-0.
The Wolf Pack would not be on the deck for long, though, and their hottest offensive player saw a lucky bounce go in his favor. As he moved in on a mini-breakaway, Justin Fontaine was caught from behind byMike Downing, but Fontaine instinctively sent a puck behind-the-back in the direction of the goal crease. With Downing falling over, the puck skittered off the Thunderbirds defenseman and behind Mike McKenna, bringing the game back to even, 1-1, at 3:41.
Hartford, in turn, gave Springfield a golden opportunity to retake the lead after a pair of tripping minors gave the Thunderbirds a 5-on-3 at 10:06 of the first. On the ensuing advantage, Sena Acolatse teed up his fourth power play goal of the season on a one-time rocket from the left-wing side to put Springfield back in front, 2-1, at 11:22.
However, like déjà vu, the Wolf Pack took less than five minutes to get the game back on even terms. This time, it was McKenna who could not find a reply to a point blast from Steven Kampfer, who slapped one by the Springfield goalie from the center point at 15:59 to bring the game to a 2-2 intermission tie.
The second period lacked the offensive punch, but it certainly did not lack physical punching. The two rivals came to a boiling point when Weegar was leveled into the end glass, resulting in Jayce Hawryluktaking Greg Carey to task in the neutral zone in a spirited scrap.
From that point on, almost every whistle was met with post-stoppage words and commotion, with Acolatse in the middle of a jousting match with Nicklas Jensen highlighting the chaos.
The only lamp-lighting of the period came from Springfield on a beautifully conceived rush. Juho Lammikko stopped up at the left point and filtered a cross-ice pass to Dylan McIlrath at the right point. The former Wolf Pack defenseman then found Denis Malgin with a perfect wrist-shot-pass, and Malgin deftly deflected the McIlrath pass over the shoulder of Hellberg for his third of the season.
Springfield maintained the 3-2 lead into the third period thanks to a penalty kill that went 4-of-4 in the first two periods. McKenna stabilized things in the second as well, making all 12 stops asked of him.
Early in the third, Jared McCann made sure McKenna would be able to coast to his milestone victory, scoring his second goal in two nights at 1:25 of the third. It was also McCann’s third goal in three games this season against the Wolf Pack.
The Wolf Pack never recovered, mustering only five attempts at McKenna’s net in the third period. The win was McKenna’s second in three nights on a weekend that saw number 56 fittingly make 56 saves and post a .933 save percentage on the weekend. He becomes only the 15th player in AHL history to win 200 games in net.
Coming off the high of a three-game weekend sweep, the Thunderbirds return to home ice on Friday, Feb. 24 to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the MassMutual Center to begin yet another three-game, three-night sequence.
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.