T-Birds Host Charlotte for First-Ever School Day GameNov 15, 2017
Springfield, MA - The Springfield Thunderbirds (4-11-1-0) will welcome a new division foe for the first time, as they welcome the Charlotte Checkers (10-4-0-0) on Wednesday for a special 10:35 a.m. puck drop as part of the first T-Birds 101 School Day game in team history.
It will be a reunion of sorts for Thunderbirds head coach Geordie Kinnear, who preceded his time as head coach in Springfield as an assistant coach for the Checkers from 2010-16. Kinnear was with the Carolina affiliates as an assistant coach dating back to 2001, save for the 2004-05 season.
The Checkers, fresh off a playoff berth in the Western Conference's Central Division last season, have begun the 2017-18 year on a tear. The Checkers sit second in the AHL in goals per game (4.00 gpg) and have had a multiple goal period in 12 of their first 14 games.
Under first-year head coach Mike Vellucci, Charlotte has seen a spectacular improvement on both the power play and penalty kill, particularly the man advantage, which sits 7th in the AHL (20%) after sitting at the bottom of the league in 2016-17 (13.1%).
Springfield's power play has also undergone drastic improvements from 2016-17. The white-hot unit for the Thunderbirds was 5-for-7 in back-to-back wins over Laval and Providence on Saturday and Sunday respectively, including a perfect 3-for-3 performance in the overtime win against the Bruins, a team that had the league's best road penalty kill a season ago.
The Thunderbirds have scored 22 goals in their four victories this season to just 21 goals in their defeats. Harri Sateri snapped a personal five-game slide to pick up his first AHL win in the nets since April of 2014.
Springfield has five players riding point streaks coming into Wednesday morning's action, including Tim Erixon, who has six assists in his last five games, tying a team record for longest assist streak. Chase Balisy and Denis Malgin each are riding streaks heading into action today, with Malgin pacing the two weekend victories with five points in two games.
The Thunderbirds also are picking up reinforcements on the blue line with the signing of veteran defenseman Max Fortunus on Tuesday. The 34-year-old rearguard has been a captain with two different franchises in his 15-year AHL career and captured a Calder Cup while captaining the Texas Stars in 2014.
Following the morning edition of hockey on Wednesday, the Thunderbirds and Checkers will rematch for a standard 7:05 p.m. Friday matchup at the MassMutual Center. From there, the Thunderbirds hit the road to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Sunday for a 3:00 p.m. puck drop.
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 visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.