ROCKWOOD, ZOLNIERCZYK LEAD WAY OVER PENGUINSMar 30, 2019
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (29-27-8-5) received a standout performance from one of their newest players in a 4-1 win on Saturday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (33-26-7-3) inside the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The game began as a much-anticipated goaltending duel between Chris Driedger and Tristan Jarry, who each came into action tied for third in the league with a .919 save percentage. Both netminders were at their acrobatic best early in this one, with Jarry and the Penguins fending off the T-Birds initial power play, while Driedger snatched an A-quality chance from rookie Chase Berger with a slick glove save.
It took until the final minute of the period to get any entries in the goal department, and Springfield penned the first tally after Driedger made two net-mouth saves off Matt Abt and a pair of crashing Penguins forwards. Harry Zolnierczyk then sprung Vincent Praplan on a breakaway down the right wing, and the T-Birds' newcomer backhanded his second goal with Springfield over Jarry's stick side to make it 1-0 with 50.7 seconds left on the first period clock.
Driedger stopped all nine shots that came his way in the first, while Jarry was 10-of-11.
Springfield picked up right where they left off to begin the second, with another rookie providing a clutch lift. Anthony Greco carried the puck down the right wing on a 2-on-1. Adam Rockwood streaked down the center lane, and Greco found the rookie center with a perfect feed, which Rockwood lifted up into the upper portion of the net for his first pro goal just 1:55 into the second.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would get back to within a goal less than six minutes later as Ryan Haggerty picked up his 20th of the season with a short-side wrister from the left circle at 7:23. For a second straight period, Springfield avoided the penalty box, while Driedger stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced in the middle period. Jarry kept the T-Birds total at two in the final 18 minutes of the second, upping his save total to 22 through 40 minutes of play.
Rockwood and the T-Birds grabbed the game by the horns in the final period. After the Penguins got caught with too many men on the ice, the Springfield power play made them pay when Rockwood set up Zolnierczyk for a one-time connection at 5:20 to make it 3-1.
With the Penguins unable to solve Driedger on 15 more shots in the third, the T-Birds put the icing on the proverbial cake when Rockwood set up rookie defenseman Alex Breton for his first AHL goal at 14:24, as he cruised down the high slot and snapped it past Jarry to make it a 4-1 final score. The win was Springfield's first in Wilkes-Barre since October of 2016 and snapped a six-game slide inside the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Springfield returns home to the MassMutual Center on Wednesday, April 3 to conclude the I-91 rivalry season series against the Hartford Wolf Pack for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop. The Thunderbirds then take flight to Charlotte in their lone trip to visit the Checkers on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7.
Springfield Thunderbirds 2019-2020 ticket memberships are on sale now and include the best benefits of being a Thunderbirds ticket holder. To learn more about memberships and single game tickets, visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).