Sparks, Marlies Steal Sunday Matinee

Jan 22, 2017

Springfield, MAThe Springfield Thunderbirds (15-17-6-2) fell victim to a stellar netminder as Garret Sparks and the Toronto Marlies (17-20-2-1) came out of the MassMutual Center a 2-1 winner on Sunday afternoon.

The opening 10 minutes of the first period featured lots of stops and starts, as the game struggled to find a fast pace amid numerous whistles and stoppages. That did not seem to bother the Thunderbirds, who held the Marlies to only six shots in the frame.

At the other end, Springfield could not take advantage of the only power play in the opening stanza, but at even strength, Springfield broke into the score sheet thanks to a perfectly placed rocket off the stick of Kyle Rau. At 17:18 of the period, Josh Brown rolled a puck into the offensive zone from his own side of center. Rau won the race to the puck, and despite having Brody Sutter with him on the rush, Rau elected to put his head down and blast a slapper over the glove of Garret Sparks. Rau’s fourth as a Thunderbird gave Springfield the 1-0 edge after one period.

Mike McKenna, who was making his third consecutive start of the weekend, barely had to break a sweat, making each of the six relatively easy saves he needed to in the first.

The Marlies made sure life would not come easy for McKenna in the second, though, as Toronto broke back even just 4:31 into the frame. After killing a power play, the Thunderbirds lost track of Marc-Andre Cliche, who took a beautiful cross-crease pass from Trevor Moore to tie the game, 1-1.

Toronto would receive two more power plays before the period closed, and the Marlies struck for the tie-breaking goal at 16:03. After jamming the front of the net around McKenna, Byron Froese was able to fish the puck out of the fray and backhand it home to put Toronto on top, 2-1. 

Sparks then carried the win home for the Marlies in the final period, denying each of the 11 shots he faced in the final period. McKenna had his best performance of the weekend, stopping 25 of 27. Springfield’s last ditch effort with McKenna pulled went unsuccessfully, including some brief time with a 6-on-4 advantage as the Thunderbirds drew a late power play.

The Thunderbirds have now fallen six consecutive times on home ice dating back to Jan. 7. Springfield embarks on another busy week with three games in four nights beginning Wednesday night in Utica against the Comets. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. 

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

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