Montembeault Outduels Mazanec in 2-1 WinDec 16, 2017
Springfield, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds (12-18-1-0) and Hartford Wolf Pack (11-12-3-3) played host to a goaltending duel that needed 65 minutes and a shootout to decide it, with Springfield pulling out a 2-1 win at the MassMutual Center for their second straight win on their five-game homestand.
After the Thunderbirds managed just 20 shots against him in a loss last Sunday in Hartford, Wolf Pack goaltender Marek Mazanec had a much busier first period of work in Springfield in his third straight start. The Thunderbirds managed 12 shots in the opening frame, but the Czech-born netminder was sturdy in fending off every Springfield offering, including the lone Thunderbirds power play in the opening period.
The Hartford power play would extend its hot streak to pick up a man advantage goal in a sixth consecutive game when Ryan Gropp tipped a John Gilmour shot under Sam Montembeault's legs to give the Wolf Pack a 1-0 lead at 16:38 of the period.
Mazanec would get a game's worth of pressure in the second period, and early in the frame, the Thunderbirds tied the score. After Alex Grenier stepped out of the box to field a puck on the left wing wall, he threw the puck across to a streaking Curtis Valk at the right wing circle. Valk then dropped it at the edge of the crease for Bobby Farnham, who patiently outwaited Mazanec with a backhander over the sprawling Hartford goaltender to make it a 1-1 game at 3:34 of the second.
The Thunderbirds then unleashed a relentless surge on the Hartford goal, launching a season-high 20 shots in the period, but Mazanec had 19 answers to ensure the game remained tied, 1-1 into the final period. Montembeault matched him save for save in stopping 19 of 20 through two periods.
The goaltending duel carried through the end of regulation, with Mazanec stopping 42 on the evening and Montembeault finishing 60 minutes with 28 stops.
Playing in just their third overtime game of the season, the Thunderbirds did not have a single shot on goal, but Montembeault continued to hold the fort, making four more saves in overtime for a 65-minute total of 32.
The Thunderbirds finally became the last AHL team to reach a shootout in the 2017-18 season against a Wolf Pack club that had won three previous skills competitions. Montembeault and Mazanec traded saves for the first five shooters. Then, with the game on his stick, rookie Francois Beauchemin moved to the forehand and snapped a wrist shot past Mazanec to complete the 2-1 win.
Despite the loss, the Wolf Pack picked up a point in their seventh consecutive game. The Thunderbirds now lead the season series with Hartford four games to three.
The Thunderbirds will continue their five-game homestand right before the Christmas holiday when they host Bridgeport once again on Friday, Dec. 22 before welcoming the Providence Bruins on Saturday, Dec. 23, with each game starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages start at just $12 per game, and Thunderbirds Full Season Ticket Members receive the most benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug and a commemorative jersey. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.