T-BIRDS PUMMEL PACK BEHIND THOMPSON'S FOUR-GOAL NIGHTJan 23, 2019
HARTFORD, Conn. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (20-14-6-4) picked up their second straight road win thanks to a masterful four-goal performance by captain Paul Thompson in a 7-4 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack (19-20-2-2) at the XL Center in Hartford on Wednesday night.
After there were only three goals scored in the entire game on Saturday night, all by the Thunderbirds, the two teams erupted offensively in the first period.
The Thunderbirds got on the board first just 50 seconds into the opening period when All-Star Anthony Greco scooped up a rebound off a Juho Lammikko shot, and tapped the loose puck into a wide open net behind Hartford goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. Greco’s 17th goal of the season gave the T-Birds a 1-0 lead.
However, just under a minute later at the 1:42 mark, Rob O’Gara tied the game by jumping into a rush from his defense position and took a cross-crease feed from Sean Day to beat Chris Driedger to tie the game, 1-1.
The Wolf Pack then took what would be their only lead of the night at 2-1 when Lias Andersson backhanded a second chance shot past Driedger after taking the initial shot off a centering feed by Steven Fogarty. Ryan Gropp picked up the secondary helper.
The see-sawing continued barely over a minute later at the 6:21 mark when Thompson redirected a left point wrist shot by Ludwig Bystrom into the back of the net for his team-leading 19th goal of the season.
At the 13:51 mark, Dryden Hunt lobbed a loose puck high over the Wolf Pack defense to a streaking Harry Zolnierczyk in stride. With a clean breakaway, Zolnierczyk calmly chipped a forehander over the glove of Georgiev, giving Springfield a 3-2 lead. The goal marked Zolnierczyk’s milestone 100th tally at the American Hockey League level.
Two and a half minutes later at the 16:22 mark, Hartford again showed their own resolve and tied it up at 3-3, as defenseman John Gilmour roofed the puck on a backhander past Driedger from a sharp angle to the left of the Springfield netminder.
After Lias Andersson was called for hooking just 12 seconds after his team’s tying goal, Tomas Jurco kept the T-Birds power play red hot, as the newest T-Bird poked home Springfield’s fourth goal of the period off a deflection near the net mouth. The wild 20 minutes of action ended with Springfield maintaining a 4-3 lead.
Both teams settled down defensively and the second period went into the final two minutes with the same 4-3 score showing on the board. However, after 18:33 of the second period, and 33 seconds into a Wolf Pack power play, Hartford tied it again, this time at 4-4. Setting up at the right post, Steven Fogarty tapped the puck into the open net off a precise feed from Peter Holland.
With the 4-4 tie carrying into the final period, Thompson took the game by the horns in the final period. Springfield earned a jolt of energy by killing off two penalties in back-to-back fashion, including 45 seconds worth of time on a two-man disadvantage.
Following the gutsy kill, the captain scored the first leg of his third period natural hat trick at the 8:30 mark. Zolnierczyk, much like Hunt did in the first period, sent a high arcing pass into the offensive zone. Thompson fielded it, stayed onside, and snapped a perfect forehander over the glove of Georgiev to make it 5-4 on what would become the game-winning goal.
Thompson completed his “standard” hat-trick with his team operating on a 5-on-3 power play just less than two minutes later at the 10:17 mark. As he stationed himself at the far post, Thompson calmly tipped home a centering feed by Zolnierczyk to make it 6-4.
The Thunderbirds captain, not content with three goals, completed the natural hat-trick and became the first Thunderbird ever to score four goals in a game when he deposited the puck into an empty Hartford net from his own zone at the 18:33 mark, increasing the T-Birds lead to 7-4. It also went down as his second power play goal of the evening. His 22 goals now place him in a tie for second among AHL players in goal scoring.
Following their second straight road triumph in Hartford, the Thunderbirds travel to Syracuse to take on the Crunch Friday night, with puck drop set for 7:00 p.m. Then, in its final game before the All-Star break, Springfield travels to Providence to play the Bruins on Saturday for the fifth time in four weeks and first since falling in the shootout the Friday before. Puck drop from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday is set for 7:05 p.m.
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.