T-Birds Put Up 5 for Sellout Crowd, But are Stunned Late by CometsMar 31, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (29-34-5-2) got five more goals on the board on Saturday in front of a sold out MassMutual Center, but the Utica Comets (36-24-6-4) rallied late to steal a 6-5 win.
For a second straight night, the opening minutes did not produce a whole lot of action in either direction. However, also for a second consecutive evening, the scoresheet began to fill with penalties near the midpoint of the frame.
First, it was the Thunderbirds who took advantage of their first power play chance when ex-Comet Alex Grenier bashed a point shot through Richard Bachman at 8:06 to put Springfield on top, 1-0. Tim Erixon and Bobby Farnham picked up the helpers on Grenier’s career-high 18th of the season.
A 7-for-7 penalty kill an evening ago could not maintain its form for the Thunderbirds on this night. Utica also scored on its first man advantage opportunity, as Frankie Simonelli got a one-timer through Sam Montembeault at 10:04 to make it a 1-1 game.
Just over three minutes later, the Comets took their first lead as Jalen Chatfield sneaked down the slot to chop home his first goal of the season at 13:43 to make it 2-1.
That score carried into the second, but Springfield would be quick to go to the offensive. It began with Dryden Hunt chipping a loose puck over Bachman from the side of the net off a deflection pass from Curtis Valk. Hunt’s 20th of the year made it 2-2 at 1:42 of the second.
Just over six minutes later, Hunt was at it again, turning a Utica defender inside out with a slick toe-drag before finding Joel Lowry on the right post for a tap-in to make it 3-2 at 7:58 of the second.
The Thunderbirds offense continued to flex its muscle despite failing to strike on a 5-on-3. Back in 5-on-5 play, Thomas Schemitsch moved down the left wing side and stashed home a pass from Valk at 13:30 to make it 4-2. Valk picked up his third assist of the period with the setup.
To their credit, the Comets battled back themselves. Just 16 seconds after the Schemitsch goal, Adam Comrie took a pass in the slot and created a rebound chance for Michael Carcone, who beat Montembeault to make it 4-3.
Springfield then got into penalty trouble as both Ryan Horvat and Erixon were caught for tripping on the same delayed call, opening the door for a full 5-on-3 for Utica. The Comets made the T-Birds pay as Carter Bancks deflected a Tanner MacMaster pass through Montembeault’s legs to tie the game at 15:52 of the second, 4-4.
Valk’s prominent night continued into the third period. At the 5:03 mark of the final period, he moved into the offensive speedily down the left wing, curled around a defenseman and then lifted a shot through Bachman to give Springfield a 5-4 lead with his fourth point of the night.
That lead carried into the closing moments, but Utica snatched the game away when Lukas Jasek fired a turnaround slap shot through Montembeault to tie the game with 2:11 to play.
Not content with overtime, the Comets then got the winner with less than a minute to play as Bancks tapped home his second of the night at 19:20 from Wacey Hamilton.
Bachman earned the win with 30 saves on his night, while Montembeault stopped 28 in the tough defeat. The Thunderbirds begin their final road trip of the season on Wednesday when they face the Belleville Senators up north of the border.
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 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.