Special Teams Erupt in Trouncing of SensOct 22, 2017
Springfield, MA - The Springfield Thunderbirds (1-6-0-0) special teams units thoroughly dominated on Sunday afternoon, leading to a 7-4 defeat of the Belleville Senators (2-4-0-1) at the MassMutual Center in the first-ever meeting between the clubs.
Neither team wasted any time in the first period getting to the offensive. Springfield would get their first lead of the season on a beautifully timed passing play off a rush. Anthony Greco drove the center lane and took a beautiful feed from Juho Lammikko to tip it past Danny Taylor at 8:36. Greco's first of the season also marked the first time this season that the Thunderbirds opened the game's scoring.
The lead would not last long on this occasion, though. After a Thunderbird broke his stick in the defensive zone, the Senators worked it to the right point, where Erik Burgdoerfer's shot was tipped by Daniel Ciampini and past Evan Cowley to tie the game at 10:29.
Cowley and the Thunderbirds defense then became the spotlight performers in a wild first period frenzy of penalties. On three occasions, Springfield was tasked with killing 5-on-3 Belleville power plays, and the Senators would have four power plays in total by the period's conclusion. Each and every time, Cowley and the defense stiffened to hold the score at 1-1.
With the crowd voicing their displeasure for most of the first, they finally got what they wanted when Springfield was awarded a power play late in the period. Moments later, Dryden Hunt made his way to the net mouth and batted home a rebound from mid-air after Eddie Wittchow flung a shot through a maze of bodies at the left circle. Wittchow's second helper of the period set up Hunt's second goal and gave the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Thunderbirds power play only gained steam as the game entered the second period. This time, Belleville was guilty of back-to-back penalties, and on the 5-on-3, the Thunderbirds made them pay. First, Hunt one-timed his second power play marker of the night from the right circle off a set-up by Alex Grenier. Then just 48 seconds later, Springfield worked the puck to the paint and Blaine Byron dug it up and buried it behind a helpless Danny Taylor to push the Thunderbirds' lead to 4-2 at 10:29. Springfield's power play registered three goals on seven chances, the most power play goals in a game in team history.
Not to be outdone, after the power play scored three goals in the first two periods, the penalty kill continued to remain perfect, killing off each and every Belleville chance through 40 minutes, to the tune of a 7-for-7 efficiency rate on the PK.
With Belleville trying to escape the period without losing more ground, the Thunderbirds kept the throttle down, and Grenier spun a blind centering feed to Curtis Valk from the left corner. With the puck on his tape, Valk was able to elevate it over Taylor, pushing his point streak to six games and buoying the Thunderbirds to a 5-2 edge heading into the third.
Belleville had thoughts of a comeback just 32 seconds into the final period as Patrick Sieloff let a point drive go that beat Cowley to cut the lead to 5-3, but the Senators would get no closer.
Hunt finished his hat trick, the third in team history, with a roof shot off a set-up by Valk at 11:17 in 4-on-4 action. Just 2:40 later, Grenier contributed his first goal as a Thunderbird, with a stick side laser past Taylor at 13:57. Grenier, Hunt and Eddie Wittchow (three assists) each had three-point nights for the Springfield offense, which nearly doubled its season output in goals for the whole season in one night (11 goals in first six games).
The other story continued to be the Thunderbirds penalty kill, which finished the night a perfect 10-for-10, the most successful PK's in one game in club history. Cowley's 27 saves earned him his first AHL win in the crease.
The Thunderbirds will have a couple days to rest before embarking on their first trip to Allentown on Wednesday in a battle with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Springfield returns to its home rink for a rematch with the Phantoms on Friday, Oct. 27 for another 3-2-1 Friday at the Thunderdome.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages start at just $12 per game, and Thunderbirds Full Season Ticket Members receive the most benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug and a commemorative jersey. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visitwww.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.