Phantoms Haunt T-Birds With Late Comeback in 3rdJan 16, 2017
Springfield, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds (15-15-5-2) fell victim to a two-goal comeback in the third period for the second straight matchup with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-10-2-0) in a 4-3 loss at the MassMutual Center on Monday afternoon.
The Springfield power play had been a weak point for Geordie Kinnear’s club to start the New Year, going just 1 of 26 in its last eight games entering play on Monday.
Against a Lehigh Valley kill that entered play with a top-10 ranking, the Thunderbirds rapidly earned themselves a man advantage, with Jayce Hawryluk drawing a cross-check from Samuel Morin just 1:15 into the first.
Just 11 seconds into the ensuing power play, Matt MacKenzie lobbed a point shot through a Brody Sutter screen and past Anthony Stolarz to give Springfield a 1-0 lead just 1:26 into the action.
The power play would not stop there, though. Taylor Leier took an interference minor against Thunderbirds winger Shane Harper moments later at the 5:53 mark to put Springfield back up a man. This time, it took all of 10 seconds for the Springfield power play to beat Stolarz. This time, Hawryluk was at the controls, taking a nice touch pass from MacKenzie Weegar at the right point. The rookie moved to the circle before uncorking a slap shot that deflected off of Morin’s stick, caught the post, and then bounced to Sena Acolatse. With an empty net staring him down, Acolatse snapped his 10-game point drought to push the Thunderbirds’ lead to 2-0 at 6:03.
At the other end, after having a quiet beginning to the game, Reto Berra withstood a middle period push from Lehigh Valley, and the Thunderbirds also kept the Phantoms off the board on a power play in the closing minutes of the period. Berra, who came within 15 seconds of a regulation shutout Saturday, made all seven saves tasked for him in the opening period.
The Phantoms power play would not stay silent as the second period began. Former Springfield Falcon Greg Carey finished off his own rebound after a strong leg save from Berra to bring Lehigh Valley to within a goal at 2:58.
With Lehigh Valley knocking on the door with thoughts of a tie game, Kyle Rau quickly nixed those plans as he moved up in a late-developing 2-on-1 with Acolatse. With the puck in a shooting position from the right wing side, Rau rifled the puck through Stolarz just 40 seconds after Carey had cut the lead in half.
Springfield would hold its 3-1 lead into the second intermission, but not before Berra made one daring play on an adventure outside his goal crease. With the puck slowly rolling into the offensive zone and Chris Conner tracking it down for the Phantoms, Berra made the late decision to leave his net to try to win the race to the puck. As Conner tried to deke to the forehand, Berra swept the goal paddle along the ice to jab the disc away. Two red jerseys then darted to the Thunderbirds crease to prevent Carey from scoring on a follow-up shot.
A busier Berra added eight more saves in the second, with only Carey’s power play tally beating the veteran backstop.
For almost 15 minutes of the final period, the Thunderbirds kept the Phantoms on the perimeter, but the Lehigh Valley comeback began with an innocent looking point shot from Robert Hagg at 14:29. Set up in the slot area, Scott Laughton tipped the wrister past Berra to bring the Phantoms to within a single goal.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Thunderbirds succumbed to a late penalty for the second straight game, setting up a Lehigh Valley power play. Instantaneously off the power play draw, Carey unleashed a one timer that squeezed through Berra to tie the game at 14:56. The two goals came just 27 seconds apart to bring the Phantoms back to even terms, 3-3.
Having entered play outscoring their opponents 52-27 in the final period, the Phantoms victimized Springfield for the second time this season, as Andy Miele completed the comeback with a one-timer goal at the left post, taking a blind feed from Conner to beat Berra with just 1:48 to go. The Phantoms outshot Springfield 13-4 in the final period, and Stolarz finished with 25 saves for his third straight win over the Thunderbirds.
After earning three of a possible four points with goals in the final two minutes on Wednesday and Friday, the Thunderbirds have now lost games in the final two minutes in two straight home contests. It was the second straight meeting with the Phantoms in which Lehigh Valley erased a two-goal deficit in the third period to win. They did the same on Nov. 5 in a 6-4 win at the PPL Center.
Springfield gets another crack on home ice this Friday when they play host to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for a 7:05 p.m. ET puck drop. It is a Friday 4-For-All featuring $1 hot dogs, soda and popcorn, in addition to $4 Coors Light drafts. The doors open at 6:00 p.m. for the MGM Springfield Pregame Concert Series featuring Brian Jarvis.
Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds 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.