T-Birds Host Crunch for Friday Faceoff

Jan 27, 2017

Springfield, MAThe Springfield Thunderbirds (16-17-6-2) begin a two-game weekend to close out schedule prior to the All Star break as they welcome the Syracuse Crunch (20-12-4-5) on Friday night at the MassMutual Center for a 7:05 p.m. ET puck drop.

The Thunderbirds are coming off of a slump-snapping 2-1 overtime victory in Utica on Wednesday night over the Comets. Utica had entered play on a six-game winning streak of its own, but goals from Shane Harper in the first and Jayce Hawryluk in overtime ended Springfield's five-game downturn. 

Springfield got the victory also thanks in large part to goalie Sam Brittain's 24-save performance in his first start of the season. Entering this weekend, though, Reto Berra has been returned to the Thunderbirds by the Florida Panthers, with Brittain being reassigned to the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL in the process.

The Thunderbirds enter play this weekend prior to the AHL All-Star Classic with playoff aspirations still on their minds. Springfield sits eight points back of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and nine back of the Hershey Bears, who are currently battling it out for fourth-place position in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division standings. 

Tonight's opponents from Syracuse are the final team that Springfield has yet to see in the Eastern Conference this season. Despite losing each of their last four games, falling beyond regulation a league-high nine times, and having more than a dozen players bounce between Syracuse and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Crunch hold onto first place in the North Division with a . 598 points percentage. 

The Crunch have been led from the defense up, as veteran blue-liner Matt Taormina has led all AHL defenseman in scoring for much of the season. The 5-foot-9-inch 30-year-old has 37 points in just 36 games. He had 41 points all of last season in 61 games.

Up front, Cory Conacher and Yanni Gourde have combined for 60 points for Benoit Groulx's club, while Tanner Richard has added 24 points, giving the Crunch four players with 24+ points. 

In net, much of the success has been on the shoulders of Adam Wilcox, who holds a 2.57 goals against average while posting 14 wins, placing him among the AHL's top ten in that category.

Both teams have had a propensity for playing in close games this season. Springfield has had 35 of its 41 games decided by two goals or fewer, while Syracuse has played 31 of its 41 games with final scores within one or two goals.

Springfield finishes the weekend with a matchup against Hershey on Saturday at the MassMutual Center as the race for the playoffs begins in earnest. After Saturday's game, the Thunderbirds hit the All-Star Classic break, with their next action not taking place until Friday, Feb. 3 in Providence against the Bruins. 

Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds Ticket Memberships start as low as $12 per game and feature the most exclusive benefits, including a commemorative jersey. For more information, fans may call the Thunderbirds ticket office at (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.

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