Penguins Rattle Off Five Straight to Top T-BirdsDec 13, 2017
Wilkes-Barre, PA - The Springfield Thunderbirds (10-18-1-0) scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead, but then saw the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (15-7-1-1) score five straight of their own to walk away with a 6-3 win on Wednesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The game began tentatively with power plays getting one chance apiece, but goalies Casey DeSmith of the Penguins and Sam Montembeault of the Thunderbirds each picked up athletic saves on deflections to keep things scoreless.
Late in the period, the Penguins cracked the scoreless egg, as defenseman Andrey Pedan found a soft spot down the left wing and accepted a feed from Ryan Haggerty across the ice before beating Montembeault with a snapper over the glove to make it 1-0 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at 14:55.
Undaunted, the Thunderbirds made sure the Pedan goal would not define the first period. It began with the simplest of plays from defenseman Max Fortunus, who got a half-slapper through a screen from the right point. The shot dipped and eluded DeSmith, resulting in Fortunus' second goal in three games to make it a 1-1 game at 16:28. Ludwig Bystrom and Juho Lammikko received credit for the assists on the second goal of the year for the 34-year-old Fortunus.
Just 1:29 later, another Max scoring his second goal in three games got the Thunderbirds their first lead of the night. After the Penguins turned the puck over in the high slot, Alex Grenier found Maxim Mamin deep down the right wing side. Mamin made a quick cut to the net and from a severe angle, the Russian winger beat DeSmith to make it a 2-1 Springfield lead at the 17:57 mark.
Montembeault's goaltending ensured the score would hold after 20 minutes, as Montembeault denied 14 of 15 Penguin offerings in the period.
The power plays came to life in the second period, with Springfield doing the special teams damage first when Chase Balisy centered a puck from the left circle that deflected past DeSmith to put Springfield on top, 3-1, at 8:43. Blaine Byron and Tim Erixon garnered the assists.
However, the Thunderbirds' penalty killers then would succumb to the suddenly hot Penguins power play. Former Thunderbird Greg McKegg beat Montembeault on a backhand rebound bid at 12:50 to bring the lead to 3-2. Then less than three minutes later, rookie sensation Daniel Sprong one-timed a slap shot from the left circle past Montembeault at 15:21 to bring the game to a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes.
Sprong would not be content with just one, though, as the rookie found a loose puck off a broken play at 5:07 of the third to break the tie and give the Penguins a 4-3 edge. Ryan Haggerty and Patrick McGrath would add insurance tallies to give the Penguins their second consecutive victory. Montembeault made his seventh 30-or-more-save performance of the season in the loss.
The Thunderbirds return home for the first of five straight at the MassMutual Center on Friday night for a spirited rematch with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. Springfield then hosts Hartford on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. for another I-91 rivalry matchup, with the first 1,500 fans in attendance receiving a Boomer Claus holiday ornament, compliments of Balise.
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.