McKenna's 32 Saves Hold Fort in 4-2 Win

Dec 7, 2016
Hartford, CT The Springfield Thunderbirds (9-8-3-2) got enough insurance to hang on for a 4-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack (7-12-3-0) by a final score of 4-2 on Wednesday at the XL Center.
The Thunderbirds and Wolf Pack kicked off their second matchup with a similarly tentative start to an evenly-matched opening period. Neither team took a penalty in the frame, and it took until the back half of the period for the scoreless deadlock to be broken.

Springfield got on the scoresheet first thanks to to some strong forechecking pressure. Shane Harperand Sena Acolatse worked the puck on a give and go, with Acolatse moving to the slot area on his backhand. From the hashmarks, he tossed a backhander at the feet of goaltender Magnus Hellberg. 

While the goalie made the first save, he could not control the rebound, which allowed Jared McCann to poke the rebound under Hellberg’s leg. The 20-year-old’s second goal of the season put Springfield up 1-0 into the first intermission, and at the other end Mike McKenna made all 10 saves asked of him in what was a rather painless first period defensively for the visitors.

Early in the second, Hartford showed flashes of being the comeback team that erased a 2-0 deficit on Nov. 16 in the first matchup between the two squads. Defenseman John Gilmour took a pass at the left point and, without hesitation, beat McKenna with the long-range wrist shot to snap a 17-game goal draught to tie the game, 1-1, just 36 seconds into period two.

After a penalty free-first, both teams successfully killed off two opponent power plays in the middle period. McKenna and Hellberg were kept busy, with McKenna stopping 12 second period shots, while Hellberg kicked out 12 of his own.

However, Hellberg would not be perfect. The Springfield checking line found its way to the scoresheet with a strong cycle game at 13:29. After Stephen MacAulay and Juho Lammikko dug the puck loose, the Thunderbirds’ newest weapon, Joey Diamond, made a path to the front of the goal and tipped a Lammikko shot in behind Hellberg to make it a 2-1 Thunderbirds lead at 13:29, Diamond’s first goal in his first game with Springfield.

Springfield was tasked with killing off a Dryden Hunt penalty just over a minute later, and the killers got the job done, thanks to McKenna’s sturdy backstopping. Moments after Hunt stepped out of the box, Tim Bozon poked a puck to center, creating a 2-on-1 with Hunt. From the left wing side, Bozon shot, collected his own rebound, and beat Hellberg to the near post to make it a 3-1 game with 3:04 left in the period. Bozon’s goal was his first point since Nov. 13.

Hartford pushed its foot down on the accelerator in the third but ran into Springfield road blocks on more than one occasion, with McKenna’s franchise-record 32 stops making the difference on this night. Michael Joly’s first AHL goal gave Hartford some life at 7:04 of the third, but the Pack would come no closer. Acolatse made a pair of diving plays to block last-ditch efforts in the final moments before Mike Sgarbossa hit an empty net from his own zone with just 1:04 left on the clock.

The Thunderbirds have now picked up five out of the last possible six points in the standings with a 2-0-1-0 mark in their last three games.  

The Thunderbirds will continue its first of two separate four-game road stretches when they fly north of the border to take on the St. John's IceCaps at 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday. All games can be heard on NewsRadio 560 WHYN. 
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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