PENALTY KILL SHINES IN RESOUNDING WIN OVER WOLF PACKFeb 1, 2019
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds (21-16-6-4) opened the unofficial second half of the AHL season with a phenomenal 47-shot effort and a 5-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack (19-22-3-2) on Friday night before a crowd of over 5,000 inside the MassMutual Center.
Springfield came out of the gates flying, registering five of the first six shots in the game.
After Tomas Jurco was stopped by Hartford netminder Marek Mazanec on a close backhand bid before a whistle, Jonathan Ang was able to win the ensuing faceoff, and eventually the puck found its way to Thomas Schemitsch, who put the T-Birds on the board first when he picked up his own rebound and backhanded it past Mazanec at the 6:05 mark in the first period. The goal was Schemitsch’s first goal since Dec. 28, 2018 vs. Bridgeport and first point since Dec. 30 at Hartford.
After Zolnierczyk was assessed a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct away from a faceoff, the Springfield penalty kill, en route to a perfect 6-for-6 evening, got to the offensive. Dryden Hunt came charging into the Wolf Pack zone shorthanded and knocked John Gilmour into the boards and away from the puck. Bobby Farnham picked up the loose disc and attempted a turn-around wrister, but was knocked off the puck by Lias Andersson. Hunt picked up the biscuit and fired a turnaround wrister to the back of the net, giving the T-Birds a 2-0 lead and increasing his point streak to six consecutive games with 13:57 to play in the first period.
At the 16:55 mark in the first period, Gilmour cut the Springfield lead in half when he slapped home a one-time feed at the right circle from Ryan Lindgren. Vinni Letteri also picked up a secondary helper on the play.
Hartford would then tie the score after Juho Lammikko turned the puck over in the defensive zone to Ville Meskanen. Meskanen tapped the puck to Peter Holland. Holland then backhanded it towards net, where Connor Brickley swatted the puck out of mid-air and past Chris Driedger, tying the score, 2-2, at the 1:19 mark in the middle period.
Twice in the 2-2 tie, the Thunderbirds saw power play chances get nullified by minor penalties, both times to Sebastian Repo. Undeterred, at the 14:27 mark, during 4-on-4 play, Ludwig Bystrom wristed a center point shot on net. Stationed in front of the netminder, Lammikko deflected it down between the legs of Mazanec to give Springfield the 3-2 lead.
Just over two minutes into the third period at the 2:07 mark, after Jake Horton won the initial faceoff, Sebastian Repo distributed the puck to Jacob MacDonald at the right point. In one swift motion, the defender wristed it past Mazanec for his 10th goal of the season, giving the T-Birds a 4-2 lead. With the goal, MacDonald joined MacKenzie Weegar and Schemitsch as the only Springfield defensemen with 10 goals or more in a season.
Springfield’s power play had another uncharacteristically tough night, going 0-for-6, but the penalty kill got the job done on all six chances, sealing things when Riley Stillman exited the penalty box following his own infraction, picked up a clearing attempt by Harry Zolnierczyk, and played it into an empty Hartford net, giving Springfield a 5-2 victory.
Driedger picked up his fourth consecutive victory against the Wolf Pack and finished with 30 saves in the victory. He has now stopped 132 of 140 shots against the Wolf Pack this season.
On Saturday, the Thunderbirds continue their weekend set as they welcome the Utica Comets for the final time this season inside the MassMutual Center. Springfield is still seeking its first win against the Comets in the 2018-19 season after falling 5-2 on Dec. 7 at the Adirondack Bank Center and 2-1 on Dec. 21 on home ice. The first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a Pedro Martinez Bobblehead compliments of MassLive.
For tickets and more information about Springfield Thunderbirds tickets or ticket packages, visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).