T-Birds Host Phantoms in Monday Matinee

Jan 16, 2017

(Photo Courtesy Lehigh Valley Phantoms/JustSports Photography)

Springfield, MAThe Springfield Thunderbirds (15-14-5-2) will begin their week bright and early with game action, as they welcome the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (24-10-2-0) into the MassMutual Center for a 1:05 p.m. ET puck drop on Monday afternoon. 

The first two matchups between the clubs this season each took place inside the PPL Center in Allentown, including the first game in Thunderbirds franchise history on Oct. 15. That night, the Phantoms raced out to a 2-0 lead and held on for a 4-2 win. The Phantoms then followed up that performance with a 6-4 win on Nov. 5 in Allentown, aided in large part by a four-goal third period and a successful comeback from a 4-2 Springfield lead after 40 minutes.

Springfield fell victim to a last-second heartbreak on Saturday in a 1-0 loss to the Providence Bruins, as Jordan Szwarz's pass attempt with 16 seconds to play found its way past Reto Berra off a deflection to score the lone goal of the night on the power play for the visitors. The Phantoms are also coming off of a defeat, as they fell in the back half of a home-and-home series against their nearby rivals, the Hershey Bears. Hershey's 6-4 triumph also pushed the Bears back to a 10-point cushion over Springfield in the Atlantic Division standings.

As the season hits the midpoint this week, the Thunderbirds hold two games in hand on Hershey, while still trailing the opposing Phantoms by 13 points in the division standings. Lehigh Valley's offense will be a stiff test for the Thunderbirds. The Phantoms' 132 goals are the most by an Eastern Conference team this season, and forward Jordan Weal leads Lehigh Valley with 36 points in just 34 games, tied for fourth in the AHL scoring race

The Phantoms have made a living off of special teams this season, boasting the league's fifth-best power play (22.9%, 41 PPG) and ninth-best penalty kill (83.3%, 4 SHG). Lehigh Valley has hurt Springfield on the man advantage in the prior two matchups, going a combined 4-for-15 (26.7%). 

While they fell in late fashion on Saturday, the Thunderbirds have been stronger lately, garnering points in six of their last eight contests. They have allowed just three goals in their last two contests. Berra andMike McKenna have split the goaltending duties almost exactly in half, with Berra registering nine victories and McKenna tallying six. 

The Phantoms have placed Anthony Stolarz in the net for each of the first two meetings with Springfield, and the 6-foot-6 netminder has garnered plenty of support from his offense, going 2-0-0 against the Thunderbirds. Following Stolarz's call-up to the Philadelphia Flyers, Alex Lyon became the primary goaltender for Lehigh Valley, and all he has done is win 16 games, the most among AHL rookies, while playing the second-most minutes of all AHL goaltenders, behind only Rochester's Linus Ullmark.

After Monday's matinee, the Thunderbirds carry on a normal week of practice before a back-to-back situation on Friday and Saturday. They first host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday at the MassMutual Center for a 7:05 p.m. ET puck drop, and then they travel to Binghamton to match up with the Senators on Saturday at 7:05. 

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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