See-Saw Affair Ends Sourly for T-Birds in St. John's

Dec 9, 2016
(Photo Courtesy St. John's IceCaps)
St. John's, NL The Springfield Thunderbirds (9-9-3-2) ran out of offense in a back-and-forth see-saw affair that saw the St. John's IceCaps (13-11-1-0) survive by a final of 6-5 on Friday at the Mile One Centre.

The IceCaps did not waste time in the first period on a night when the Thunderbirds started the game flat-footed. St. John’s fired each of the first eight shots of the night, scoring twice in the first 5:27. First, Charles Hudon raced to the front of the goal, jabbing a rebound past Mike McKenna. McKenna made a save in tight on Daniel Audette but could not find the rebound as he laid on his back hoping to get a whistle.

Just 54 seconds later, Joel Hanley took a feed at the left point, faked a slap shot, stepped in, and wristed an offering past McKenna to give the IceCaps a 2-0 edge before the game was even six minutes old.

Thunderbirds head coach Geordie Kinnear wasted no time utilizing his team’s timeout following the second goal. The momentum of the game took another shift in the Thunderbirds’ favor at 7:34 when 5-foot-8-inch Joey Diamond dropped the gloves with the much bigger Jeremy Gregoire for St. John’s. 

Diamond’s team-first action invigorated his bench with quick results. At 11:53, Ryan Horvat stole a puck from behind the St. John’s goal, stepped toward the goal line and found Anthony Greco in front, with Greco finishing the one-time bid to cut the St. John’s lead to 2-1.

Less than four minutes later, another behind-the-net takeaway by the Thunderbirds brought the game back to even terms. This time Stephen MacAulay pilfered the loose puck behind the goal. Eric Robinson swung by to scoop it up before beating St. John’s goaltender Yann Danis on a wraparound at the left post to tie the game, 2-2, at 15:14 of the first.

The tie game only lasted 14 seconds, though, as Chris Terry intercepted a puck deep in the Thunderbirds zone and beat McKenna on a rebound to give St. John’s the 3-2 lead at the first intermission. 

The second period began with Springfield pressing the issue offensively, earning its second power play chance of the night. Off a rush, Dryden Hunt stopped on a dime in the right circle, then patiently outwaited Danis to beat the goalie on the stick side to tie the game, 3-3, at 6:19.

In a period that saw Springfield register 16 shots on goal, the Thunderbirds took their first lead nine minutes after Hunt’s fifth of the season. Eddie Wittchow stepped up and missed the net on a one-timer from the slot. Despite the miss, the Thunderbirds stayed persistent, as Jared McCann dug it off the side of the net, moved behind the goal and then found Horvat at the near-side post. The alternate captain’s second point of the night and fourth goal of the year gave Springfield its first lead, 4-3, at 15:19.

However, in what became a theme of the night, St. John’s answered back in a hurry, as Max Friberg camped out at the side of McKenna’s net to tap a rebound into the open net at 16:33, just 1:14 after Horvat’s goal, tying the game, 4-4.

With the score all even with 20 minutes to play, Springfield once again fired the opening statement in the final period. Once again it came on a power play, as Shane Harper rifled a one-timer through Danis from the left circle at 9:27 to restore Springfield’s lead to 5-4.

Just like in period two, though, St. John’s needed only 1:14 to tie the game again. Springfield took a minor penalty on a Chase Balisy tripping call, and on the ensuing power play, 6-foot-6 Mike McCarron camped out on the doorstep to beat McKenna on a rebound at 10:41, once again pushing the IceCaps into a tie, 5-5.

Much like they did in the first, St. John’s backed up goals in a hurry, as Mark Barberio jumped up into a rush, dishing out his third assist of the night in finding Stefan Matteau crashing the net for the game-winning goal at 11:19 of the final frame. 

The Thunderbirds generated extended offensive zone time in the aftermath of Matteau’s goal, but on this night, Springfield ran out of ammunition in a game that saw 11 different players tally goals, seven different players register multi-point nights, 68 shots, four ties and five lead changes.

McKenna tied his own club record with 32 saves, but Danis tasted victory, his fourth straight start that ended victoriously. 

The IceCaps and Thunderbirds get less than 24 hours to recuperate from the barn-burner before facing off once again on Saturday night from the Mile One Centre. The puck drops at 6:05 p.m. ET on NewsRadio 560 WHYN.  
Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds Season 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).
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