McKenna Shuts Out Hartford in 32-Save MasterpieceFeb 25, 2017
Springfield, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds (22-23-7-2) received a masterful performance from their veteran goaltender in a 2-0 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack (19-30-3-2) at the MassMutual Center on Saturday before a crowd of 5,348.
Facing a fragile Hartford club that had allowed 16 goals in the prior three games, the Thunderbirds looked to establish forechecking pressure early in a first period that saw nine shots for the two teams.
Veteran defenseman Chris Summers took the game’s first penalty for the Wolf Pack at 12:59, setting the Thunderbirds up for the game’s first power play. Springfield made Hartford pay, and off a point shot byMacKenzie Weegar, Chase Balisy dug out the loose puck and roofed it behind Brandon Halverson at 14:28 to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead.
Summers would take another penalty at 17:26, setting up another Springfield power play, but this time the Hartford penalty kill stiffened. After serving his penalty, Summers came out of the box and moved in onMike McKenna down the left wing. McKenna made the initial stop sliding to his left, but as the puck skidded close to the goal line, a pair of Springfield players dove on top of the puck. While it prevented a goal, it did award the Wolf Pack a penalty shot.
With a chance to tie the game with 22 seconds left in the period, Wolf Pack leading goal scorer Nicklas Jensen attempted the Peter Forsberg-inspired move, deking to the backhand with one hand on the stick. However, McKenna showed just enough of a stretch to get the toe on it and make the save, keeping Springfield ahead 1-0 after the first period.
The tight checking carried over into period two, with the Wolf Pack getting the better of the possession time, but the Hartford offense continued to have issues solving McKenna, who entered the night with three wins in three tries against the Wolf Pack on the season.
Hartford outshot the Thunderbirds by a 12-7 margin in the second, but McKenna and the Springfield defense fought off the most dangerous advances. The Thunderbirds were shorthanded only once through the first 40 minutes of play, with a Mike Downing minor penalty getting dispatched midway through the period.
The Wolf Pack began the third period trailing by one, but had a devil of a time trying to get shots directed at McKenna’s crease, generating only one attempt through more than half of the 20-minute final frame. Springfield’s discipline held strong, as they needed only the one successful kill, but Hartford finally warmed to the task in the final minutes.
With less than two minutes to go, and with tired Thunderbirds stuck on the ice after an icing call, the Wolf Pack narrowly missed a pair of deflection goals, and McKenna finished his night with a final bunch of saves in the closing minute. His 32-save shutout was his first as a Thunderbird, his third straight win, his 201st career triumph in the AHL, and the first home shutout in Springfield Thunderbirds history.
To help bring the victory home, Dryden Hunt used the laws of physics to clear a puck off the far-side glass in his own zone and all the way down into the empty net for his third goal in two nights.
Armed with a five-game winning streak, the Thunderbirds will next look to make it six straight as they visit the Providence Bruins on Sunday for a 3:05 p.m. puck drop at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds 2017-18 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.