T-Birds Host Checkers Friday NightFeb 22, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (23-28-2-1) begin a two-game weekend on Friday night when they host the Charlotte Checkers (30-21-0-3) at the MassMutual Center for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop.
The home team has won each of the six games so far in the season series between Charlotte and Springfield, with the Thunderbirds winning a pair of contests at the MassMutual Center on Nov. 15 (5-3) and Nov. 17 (4-0).
Charlotte, meanwhile, has gotten the better of Springfield in four contests at the Bojangles' Coliseum, outscoring the Thunderbirds 20-6 over the course of the wins. Charlotte won five consecutive games, beginning with their 5-2 win over the Thunderbirds on Feb. 9, before falling to Syracuse by a 3-1 score on Sunday.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic has been a rock for the Checkers over his last five starts, all victories. The second-year pro has allowed just four goals in that time while recording three shutouts, including back-to-back blankings of Springfield (7-0 on Feb. 10) and Hartford (6-0 on Feb. 13).
Springfield snapped its five-game losing slide on Sunday with a gutty 3-2 win in regulation time at the Dunkin' Donuts Center against the Providence Bruins. Ryan Horvat picked up a game-winning insurance marker early in the third to extend his personal point streak to three games, while Curtis Valk added a goal and an assist. Harri Sateri picked up his sixth win in his last seven AHL starts by posting 36 saves on 38 Bruins shots.
Following the T-Birds' home ice tilt with Charlotte on Friday night, Springfield will immediately hit the road to Utica and a Saturday night matchup with the Comets. It is the first meeting between the clubs this season, and the first of four contests between the Thunderbirds and Comets between Saturday and March 31.
The Comets have streaked their way to second place position in the North Division by virtue of winning eight of their last ten games entering the weekend. Utica lost a streak of 16 consecutive games with at least a point in a 6-4 loss to Lehigh Valley on home ice Wednesday night. They had been 13-0-2-1 in 16 games prior to the loss to the Phantoms.
Utica has leaned heavily on goaltender Thatcher Demko, as the AHL All-Star has posted 19 wins and a .924 save percentage in his second pro year. Up front, Reid Boucher earned CCM/AHL Player of the Month honors in January by potting 15 points in 11 January contests. His 23 goals slot him tied for second behind only Charlotte's Valentin Zykov.
After the weekend getaway, the Thunderbirds begin a 3-in-3 weekend next Friday, March 2 against Hartford at the MassMutual Center, and continuing with a second home contest on Saturday, March 3 against Charlotte. Springfield then travels to Providence for another matchup at the Dunkin' Donuts Center at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday, March 4.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.