T-Birds Open 3-in-3 Weekend @ Lehigh ValleyOct 11, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds (0-0-0-1) take to the ice for their first three-game weekend of the young season on Friday, as they visit the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (1-0-0-0) for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop at the PPL Center.
The two clubs will turn right around to drop the puck on Opening Night presented by MGM Springfield at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at the MassMutual Center. A season ago, the Thunderbirds skated to a 1-4-1-0 record against the Atlantic Division champion Phantoms, who were an Eastern Conference-best 27-6-3-2 on home ice. The Thunderbirds did deal Lehigh Valley one of their six regulation losses at the PPL Center with a 6-2 triumph on Jan. 12. That was Springfield's first win at the PPL Center since rebranding as the Thunderbirds.
Springfield will look to get into the win column for the first time this season after taking a narrow 3-2 shootout defeat in Wilkes-Barre a week ago Saturday. Captain Paul Thompson (1g, 1a) and newcomer Harry Zolnierczyk (two assists) each posted multiple-point evenings, while Dryden Hunt added his first goal of the season on a second-period power play strike.
At the other end, Michael Hutchinson was spectacular in his first start as a Thunderbird goaltender, turning away 44 of 46 shots he faced, including all 28 he saw in the game's final 45 minutes of regulation and overtime. Hutchinson was recalled by the Florida Panthers earlier this week in the aftermath of an injury to Panthers starter Roberto Luongo. To replace Hutchinson's spot, Chris Driedger was recalled by Springfield from the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL to be the goaltending tandem alongside Sam Montembeault.
Montembeault has fared well in two career starts at the PPL Center, going 1-0-1 in his two starts a season ago while stopping 53 of 58 shots against him, good for a .914 save percentage.
After the T-Birds and Phantoms meet twice in two nights, Springfield will close its 3-in-3 weekend with a contest against the Providence Bruins at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday at the MassMutual Center. That will mark the first of 14 matchups in the regular season between the two division rivals. Springfield went 5-7-1-1 against Providence a season ago.
Springfield fans will be in for a special day on Saturday as Opening Night festivities will feature many new elements never before seen in Thunderbirds history. The action begins with a pregame Block Party presented by Community Bank at 4 p.m. at MGM Springfield's outdoor plaza. Each and every player on the Thunderbirds roster will be introduced down the red carpet for up-close and personal interaction with hockey fans of all ages. The red-carpet "premiere" introduction will get underway promptly at 4:00 p.m.; fans are strongly encouraged to arrive early to secure free parking at the Civic Center Garage (first-come, first-served). After the red carpet ceremony, the party rolls on, featuring a live music performance by Top Shelf, with food and drink vendors on hand from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Upon the party's conclusion, fans can make their way across the street to the MassMutual Center, where each and every person through the doors will see an Opening Weekend rally towel draped over their seat as part of a "white-out" inside the arena. Pregame festivities and ceremonies will get underway shortly before 7:00 p.m.
Limited tickets remain for Opening Night and can be purchased by visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or by calling (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about 2018-19 Thunderbirds Season 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.