T-Birds Score 4 at Sold Out Opening Night, But Fall in SO

Oct 13, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (1-0-0-2) put on another strong offensive show on Opening Night in front of a sold out MassMutual Center, but the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (2-1-0-0) showed some comeback spirit to come away with a 5-4 shootout win on Saturday night.
It took a four-round shootout, but the Phantoms defeated the Thunderbirds 5-4 on Saturday at the MassMutual Center.
In the first period, for the third consecutive game the Thunderbirds scored first off, this time off the stick of forward Harry Zolnierczyk, who beat Phantoms goaltender Anthony Stolarz on the blocker side with a wrister at 6:37 of the first. Defenseman Ian McCoshen and captain Paul Thompson picked up the assists on the play.
Seven minutes later Lehigh Valley got a goal of its own while shorthanded. Cole Bardreau collected a loose puck on the left side of the blue line and fired one over the blocker of Springfield goaltender Chris Driedger at 14:41 of the first to bring the game to a 1-1 tie at intermission.
Thompson was called for slashing with 18 seconds to play in the first period and the penalty carried over to the second period. The Phantoms came out of the locker room and scored just 54 seconds into the second period off a shot from T.J. Brennan to give themselves a 2-1 lead. The goal was the first allowed by the T-Birds penalty killing this season.
The Thunderbirds stormed back and tied the game at 2-2 seven minutes into the period when forward Jake Horton scored his first professional goal. The rookie redirected a shot by defenseman Riley Stillman, who also picked up his first professional point. Forward Anthony Greco picked up the secondary helper.
Six minutes into the third period, forward Blaine Byron scored his first goal of the season on a toe drag wrist shot from the left face-off circle that went over Stolarz's blocker and into the net, giving Springfield a 3-2 lead. Julian Melchiori picked up the helper on the goal, and the Thunderbirds were not done.
18 seconds later, Springfield took a two-goal lead when Thompson slapped his third goal of the season over the blocker of Stolarz off a rebound from a Thomas Schemitsch point shot in the middle of the ice. Zolnierczyk picked up a secondary assist on the play for his second point of the game.
With just under three minutes to play in the third period and Stolarz pulled, David Kase scored to make it 4-3, beating Driedger glove side at 17:37. With 22.8 seconds left, Greg Carey picked up a rebound to the left of Driedger and scored on the blocker side to tie the score at 4-4.
After both teams traded chances to no avail in the 3-on-3 overtime, a shootout followed. Even though Henrik Borgstrom scored for Springfield, it was not enough, as Taylor Leier and German Rubtsov each got pucks through Driedger to make it a 5-4 final. Lehigh Valley salvaged a victory in the home-and-home series, while Springfield got three out of a possible four points in the two-game series.
The Thunderbirds complete the busy three-game weekend with Kids Opening Day against the Providence Bruins at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14. Tickets for all games are available at www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.
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.
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