T-BIRDS OFFENSE CAN'T FIND ITS TOUCH IN LEHIGH VALLEYJan 16, 2019
ALLENTOWN, PA - After defeating Providence Sunday on a buzzer-beater in overtime, the Springfield Thunderbirds (18-14-5-3) could not overcome a deficit halfway through regulation and fell to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (21-15-1-2) by a final score of 3-1 at the PPL Center on Wednesday night.
At the 9:22 mark in the first period, the Phantoms got on the board first when Mikhail Vorobyev flipped the puck high in the air and into the Thunderbirds zone. Taylor Leier took advantage of a misplay and gathered it in before beating Sam Montembeault on a breakaway backhand. Colin McDonald picked up the secondary assist on the tally.
With under seven minutes to play in the first period, McDonald took an outlet pass from the defensive zone and broke into the Springfield defensive zone in breakaway fashion with a chance to extend the home team’s lead. He went to a backhand move on Montembeault, but the T-Birds’ All-Star netminder stood tall and stopped the shot, keeping the score 1-0.
After Chris Wideman took the first minor penalty of the game to put Springfield a man down, the T-Birds had a chance to equalize the score in the last minute of the first period. After a Phantom turnover, Harry Zolnierczyk got the puck on his stick for a clean shorthanded breakaway, but his shot attempt sailed wide of the target, and the 1-0 Phantoms lead carried into the first intermission.
Montembeault went into the first break with nine saves on his ledger, while Phantoms starter Alex Lyon needed to turn away only four shots through 20 minutes of play.
The Thunderbirds entered the second period with 1:17 on the Wideman penalty, but they were able to kill it off. That, however, did not stop the Phantoms from increasing their lead. At the 5:14 mark in the second period, Greg Carey took a pass from Reece Wilcox in the right wing circle on his backhand and quickly punched home his sixth goal in as many games against Springfield to make it 2-0.
Just over a minute later at the 6:32 mark, Mike Vecchione took a pass from Wilcox in the right circle and, with his momentum carrying him toward the goal line, the second-year pro wristed it over Montembeault’s glove hand to push the lead to 3-0. That spelled the end of Montembeault’s night, as Geordie Kinnear pulled his goaltender and inserted Chris Driedger.
The Thunderbirds received a jolt of energy and a power play when Josh Brown and Tyrell Goulbourne dropped the gloves in a fight that fired up both benches and the crowd inside the PPL Center.
Though Springfield failed to score on the ensuing power play, they would get on the board past the midpoint of regulation. After Anthony Greco drove hard to the net from the left wing side and got stopped by Lyon, Ryan Horvat fired a second chance off the goaltender before Jacob MacDonald tapped home the third chance from the blue paint on his back hand, and in doing so cut the Lehigh Valley lead to 3-1.
The goal was reviewed for possible goaltender interference after Greco made contact with Lyon, but the call was upheld for MacDonald’s first point against the Phantoms this season.
Lehigh Valley took their foot off the offensive gas pedal in the final period, but the Thunderbirds could not break through a suffocating Phantoms defense, as Lyon stopped all 12 shots at his net in the final period. Driedger finished off a perfect relief performance with 13 saves on 13 shots.
The Thunderbirds continue their road trip on Friday night with a visit to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center against Providence for the second time in less than a week.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about 2018-19 Thunderbirds Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including the lowest prices for the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.