Mar 1, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (23-23-6-5) raced out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back in a 5-1 triumph on Friday night over the Hartford Wolf Pack (23-27-6-3) inside the MassMutual Center before a crowd of 5,856.


The Thunderbirds wasted little time jumping to the early advantage. Off a face-off win by newcomer Jean-Sebastien Dea, captain Paul Thompson pushed the puck back to Thomas Schemitsch at the right point. As he glided toward the side of the net, he slipped a pass into the crease, where Harry Zolnierczyk tapped it home to make it 1-0 at 4:11 of the opening period.


The goal marked Zolnierczyk's 45th point of the season, a new AHL career high for the 31-year-old. Less than two minutes later, Dea added to the Springfield advantage at the 6:00 mark. On a power play advantage, Dea found himself in front of Hartford goaltender Brandon Halverson as Anthony Greco fanned on a centering feed from the bottom of the right circle. Thanks to a fortuitous bounce off Halverson, Dea located the puck and swatted it home to extend the lead to 2-0.


As the first period carried on, Springfield only picked up more offensive steam. At the 15:51 mark, Jacob MacDonald got his 13th goal of the season as he raced down the center lane and redirected a pass from Matt Mangene up over the shoulder of Halverson to bring the Thunderbirds' first intermission lead to 3-0.


At the other end, Chris Driedger was well on his way to a fifth win in six contests against Hartford, turning aside all 10 shots that came his way in the opening frame.


After the second period saw the T-Birds kill three penalties in the first 13 minutes of action, Springfield then got back on the board under bizarre circumstances when Juho Lammikko bounced a puck on a shoot-in past Halverson and into the twine to extend the lead to 4-0 at 15:59.


Driedger would be far busier in period two, turning away each of 15 attempts into the Thunderbirds goal mouth. Another pair of newcomers, Cliff Pu and Vincent Praplan, tag-teamed to extend the lead even further in the third. After digging the puck out of a scrum in the right wing corner, Praplan touched the puck to Pu, who swatted it off Halverson's skate and into the net. The tally at 8:49 made it 5-0 and was Pu's first goal as a Thunderbird after he tallied one in 44 games with Charlotte.


Driedger's shutout would not come to fruition, which would go down as the only blemish in an otherwise stellar performance. Gabriel Fontaine got one back for the Wolf Pack with less than seven minutes to go in regulation, but Driedger finished the night with 36 stops.


On Saturday, the T-Birds renew acquaintances with the team they will see 14 times before the season comes to a close. Springfield will look to gain ground on the 4th-place Bruins, who have fallen in five of nine meetings thus far against the Thunderbirds. Springfield dispatched the Bruins by a 5-1 final score on Feb. 17 inside the Dunkin' Donuts Center, where the two clubs will meet again to close the home-and-home on Sunday afternoon. The T-Birds will also greet New England Patriots Super Bowl champion Trey Flowers, who will be on hand for a meet-and-greet beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the MassMutual Center concourse.


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).


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