T-Birds Rally in Third, Fall in Shootout in HartfordMar 28, 2018
HARTFORD, CT - The Springfield Thunderbirds (28-33-5-2) battled back from two goals down in the third, but could not get over the hump, falling to the Hartford Wolf Pack (31-30-5-3) at the XL Center in a shootout by a final score of 4-3 on Wednesday night.
Springfield would not get off to the start it wanted in the opening minutes, allowing 10 of the game's first 13 shots. Vinni Lettieri made the Thunderbirds pay for their slow start by beating Harri Sateri on a give-and-go with Cole Schneider at the 5:26 mark of period one. It was Lettieri's eighth goal in nine games against the T-Birds this season and 21st in total.
To their credit, the Thunderbirds showed great resolve to get seven of the next nine shots to close the period. Their hard work paid off at 12;02 as Chase Balisy poked home a rebound in front of Alex Georgiev to tie the game, 1-1. Balisy's 14th goal of the season came with a lone helper from Max Fortunus, whose right point shot gave Balisy the chance to finish the rebound.
Sateri and Georgiev would be the stars of period two, as both clubs had power play chances to break the 1-1 tie but could not do so. Springfield could not strike with 1:15 of two-man advantage time, and the Wolf Pack were unsuccessful on their first two power plays through 40 minutes of play. Through two periods, Georgiev already had 22 saves on his counter, while Sateri turned away 18.
The third period saw the flood gates open in the first minute when Sateri mishandled a puck behind his net. Off a steal, Hartford defenseman Brandon Crawley moved up to the left point and snapped a wrister home just 51 seconds into the third to make it a 2-1 game.
Less than six minutes later, Adam Tambellini would give the Wolf Pack their first two-goal lead of the night by firing a wrister over Sateri's glove hand a 6:25, making it 3-1.
Despite their recent fortunes, the Thunderbirds did not keel over in response to the deficit. They received some lady luck to get the game to a 3-2 score at 9:08. Dryden Hunt fired a bad angle shot at Georgiev that kicked out in front of the crease. As Chris Bigras tried to clear for Hartford, his attempt inadvertently hit Lettieri and careened in to bring Springfield back to within one goal.
Just 3:09 later, the top unit was back out for Springfield and again Hunt was in the middle of things. After taking a feed from Max Fortunus, Hunt's wrist shot dinged the left post before resting in perfect position for Joel Lowry to jam home his first goal as a Thunderbird at 12:17 to tie the game.
The Thunderbirds looked poised to end their losing slide when they earned a power play in the final minute of regulation, but Georgiev and the Wolf Pack's top-ranked home penalty kill fought it off to get the game past overtime and into a shootout.
The Wolf Pack won their league-high ninth shootout game, getting just one necessary goal from Scott Kosmachuk in the third and final round, while the Thunderbirds could not beat Georgiev on their three attempts.
The Thunderbirds will play three games in four nights by week's end, as Springfield returns home for matchups on Friday against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Saturday against the Utica Comets. Both games have a 7:05 p.m. ET puck drop. Saturday's game is the second annual Pucks N' Paws presented by Dave's Soda & Pet City. Dogs will be allowed entry for $5, with those proceeds benefiting the Foundation for TJO Animals. Additionally, U.S. women's Olympic hockey gold medalist Kacey Bellamy will be on hand to sign autographs and meet fans from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
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.