T-Birds Open Post-Holiday Schedule in Wilkes-BarreDec 27, 2016
(Photo Courtesy Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)
Wilkes-Barre, PA – The Springfield Thunderbirds (11-11-3-2), coming off of their first shutout defeat in their history, will look for different results as they begin a three-game, four-night stretch in Northeast Pennsylvania against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (20-5-3-0) on Tuesday night inside the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The Thunderbirds had their way in the month of October with the AHL's best team, handing them two of their eight losses within eight days of one another. Springfield recorded a 1-0 shutout win on Oct. 21 in Wilkes-Barre behind Reto Berra's first shutout of the season before adding a second triumph in a 2-1 overtime thriller on Oct. 29 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
The Penguins, however, got their revenge when the teams took to the ice 10 days ago. Behind a four-goal unanswered binge in the second and third periods, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton picked up its first win over the Thunderbirds in a 4-2 game on Dec. 17.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton enters the post-holiday break as the hottest team in the AHL, sitting atop the Eastern Conference with 43 points, two points clear of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for top billing in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins have won each of their last six games, including a 5-4 come-from-behind win in Binghamton on Monday night. Rookie phenom Jake Guentzel (two goals, one assist) paced the Penguins, who erased a 4-2 deficit with less than 25 minutes left in regulation time. The Nebraska-Omaha alumnus is tied for the lead league with 14 goals and ranks fourth in scoring with 29 points.
Springfield, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after being blanked for the first time in their brief history on Dec. 18 in Hershey. The Thunderbirds have been playing with a depleted roster for the better part of six weeks due to injuries to names not limited to Graham Black, Brody Sutter, MacKenzie Weegar,Brent Regner, and Jayce Hawryluk.
Weegar and Regner made the trip with the Thunderbirds to Wilkes-Barre, a sign that Springfield could receive two of its key blue line pieces back. Weegar has not played since Nov. 25, while Regner has been on the shelf since Nov. 26.
Coming out of the holiday break, Chase Balisy has paced the scoring for Springfield with 16 points and a team-high 11 assists. The Thunderbirds continue to thirst for goal-scoring following Paul Thompson's promotion to the Florida Panthers. At the time of his recall, the Methuen, N.H. native led Springfield with six goals, and no other T-Bird has eclipsed that mark.
Goaltending has remained the strong suit for the Thunderbirds in the first third of the season. Berra finds himself sitting in the top 15 of AHL goalies with a 2.25 goals-against average to go along with his three shutouts, which put him in a four-way tie for second in the AHL.
The Thunderbirds will not get a chance to rest for long following the Tuesday night tilt in Wilkes-Barre, as they travel to Bridgeport for a meeting with the Sound Tigers on Wednesday at the Webster Bank Arena at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Springfield returns home to close out 2016 for a New Year's Bash against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday, Dec. 30 at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tickets are available by visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or by calling (413) 739-GOAL.
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.