Pulock Puts Dagger in T-Birds' Hearts in OT

Feb 7, 2017

Bridgeport, CT- The Springfield Thunderbirds (17-20-7-2) fought back from two separate deficits to get to extra time before succumbing to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (27-16-1-1) at the Webster Bank Arena on Tuesday by a final score of 4-3. 

The Sound Tigers were opportunistic early in the first period on Tuesday against a goaltender in Reto Berra who had allowed just three goals in his prior three games at the Webster Bank Arena. 

Just 2:16 into the game, Jesse Graham, playing in his first game for Bridgeport since mid-December, wristed a shot through traffic that eluded Berra to give the Sound Tigers the 1-0 lead.

The Thunderbirds early pushes were fended off by Bridgeport goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was gunning for his seventh straight win between the pipes. With Halak sealing the other net, the Sound Tigers upped their advantage to a two-goal lead as Ross Johnston redirected a cross-crease pass by Colin Markison behind Berra at 13:13 for a 2-0 Bridgeport edge.

Sensing a need to change the momentum, Thunderbirds head coach Geordie Kinnear made a mid-game goaltending switch for just the second time all season, replacing Berra with Mike McKenna. The Thunderbirds then got a quick response from Sena Acolatse, who dropped the gloves with fellow tough guy Johnston of Bridgeport. 

The Sound Tigers had been shorthanded just twice in their prior two games, but penalties on Josh Ho-Sang and Bracken Kearns less than two minutes apart gave Springfield a two-man advantage.

With the ensuing 5-on-3, All-Star defenseman MacKenzie Weegar ended a goal drought that dated back to Jan. 11, ripping a one-timer off the post behind Halak to cut the Bridgeport lead to 2-1 at 16:54.

The Thunderbirds continued to push closer to a tie in the second period, with their penalty kill continuing to act as a momentum changer. After a Graham Black trip was successfully dispatched, the Thunderbirds went back to the power play and struck, thanks to a faceoff violation call on Ben Holmstrom. With their second 5-on-3 of the night, Springfield once again made Bridgeport pay, as Jayce Hawryluk found Chase Balisy on a pass right through the goal mouth to the right wing side. Balisy’s second point of the night put the visitors back into a tie game at 10:24. 

The third period brought with it a vicious offensive assault from the Sound Tigers with a 20-shot outburst, only to have McKenna stop 19 of the attempts. Ryan Pulock’s power play blast at 10:52 finally ended Springfield’s run of 32 consecutive penalties killed to give Bridgeport a 3-2 lead.

Needing to pull McKenna in the final moments, the Thunderbirds scored an extra attacker goal for the fifth time already this season, as Paul Thompson made a tip elevate past Halak from the slot. All the more impressive, Thompson completed the feat without one of his gloves, which fell in the neutral zone. The goal at 19:10 secured a point for Springfield.

The Thunderbirds had a chance to pick up a third power play goal and the win when Bracken Kearns was guilty of a high-stick in the closing minute, but Bridgeport killed the penalty. After McKenna made a trio of remarkable saves to keep the game going in overtime, Pulock finally squeezed a wrist shot between the goaltender’s wickets at 2:18 of the extra session to give the Sound Tigers their seventh overtime win of the season, while Springfield dropped its seventh different game in the 3-on-3 session.  

The Thunderbirds are back on MassMutual Center ice on Friday, Feb. 10 as Ric Flair makes a visit to Springfield for "Throwback Night" with a piece of Flair. Flair's special appearance, presented by Big Y and Lia Auto Group. Additionally, the evening also marks Big Y Family Night, where Big Y Silver Savings Club Card holders can save $5 on tickets (NOTE: this offer cannot be combined with Ric Flair packages).

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.

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