T-Birds Fall in Valiant OT EffortOct 25, 2017
Allentown, PA - The Springfield Thunderbirds (1-6-1-0) fell victim to a reinvigorated Lehigh Valley Phantoms (6-1-0-1) power play, falling late in overtime, 3-2, on Wednesday night at the PPL Center.
After being forced to go shorthanded 10 times on Sunday, the Thunderbirds once again saw their discipline elude them in the opening period. A slashing call in the first minute put Springfield shorthanded, but the struggling Phantoms power play could not strike on their first chance of the period.
Lehigh Valley entered Wednesday's action just 1-for-33 on power plays this season, but they would get a 5-on-3 chance at the midpoint of the period and the unit finally came through. Setting up at the left post, first-year pro Mike Vecchione slammed home a cross-crease feed from veteran Chris Conner to put the Phantoms ahead at 11:19 of the period.
Springfield would survive the back end of that power play, plus another Lehigh Valley advantage, but the Phantoms' momentum was evident. With the minutes winding down in the first period, the home side would add another one, as captain Colin McDonald tallied his first goal in his first AHL game of the season. After a turnover by Springfield in their own zone, Mikhail Vorobyev swung a quick pass to McDonald on the right wing, and the veteran winger wasted little time slapping a shot by Sam Montembeault to put the Phantoms ahead 2-0 at 16:33.
Springfield managed only five shots in the opening period to Lehigh Valley's 15, which has become a theme for the Phantoms in the early season. Montembeault stopped 13 and was kept busy on the four power plays in the opening frame. The Phantoms have now outshot their opponents by a margin of 108-64 in first periods this season. Lehigh Valley Alex Lyon needed to only make five saves in the opening 20 minutes.
As much as the Phantoms carried the mail in the first period, the game took a near-mirror image flip in the middle stanza. Perhaps the biggest catalyst was not a goal or even a save, but rather a fight. Newcomer Bobby Farnham, a North Andover, Mass. native, sensed his team needed a lift early in the second. He took matters into his own hands, fearlessly dropping the gloves against towering defenseman Sam Morin.
After both teams took minor penalties, the game moved to 4-on-4 play, and the Thunderbirds made Farnham's show of courage count. As Curtis Valk moved in to dislodge a loose puck, a Phantom defender fell to the ice, anticipating a tripping minor to Valk. Instead, the play continued and Dryden Huntslammed home a feed from between the circles for his fifth goal of the young season. Springfield had cut the lead to 2-1 just 4:58 into the period.
The Thunderbirds would be far from finished, though. Just under four minutes later, Maxim Maminmoved in over the left wing. Sensing he didn't have help in the first wave of the rush, Mamin froze with it along the left wing wall, then saucered a backhand feed to the slot to pinching defenseman Thomas Schemitsch. From there, Schemitsch snapped it off his blade in short order and beat Alex Lyon on the glove hand side to even the slate, 2-2, at 9:49.
Montembeault made sure his team stayed deadlocked with a couple of dazzling denials in the second, including a glove snag on a redirection bid by Greg Carey on a Lehigh Valley power play shortly after Schemitsch's game-tying goal.
Montembeault was the superstar in the third period, denying a slew of Lehigh Valley chances to get Springfield into overtime en route to a career-best 36 save night.
In the extra period, though, the Thunderbirds' penalty killers would finally run out of gas after Matt MacKenzie was given a five-minute major for crosschecking. With the remainder of overtime to work with a 4-on-3, Lehigh Valley found victory off the stick of Greg Carey with just 57.9 seconds left until a shootout.
The overtime defeat marks just the first chapter of the home-and-home series between the two Atlantic Division foes. The teams reunite on Friday in Springfield on a 3-2-1 Halloween-themed Friday at the Thunderdome. Puck drop that evening is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
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.