T-Birds Trounce Phantoms in Track Meet

Feb 24, 2017

Springfield, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds (21-23-7-2) outdueled the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (34-17-2-0) through a wild second period in an eventual 5-3 win at the MassMutual Center on Friday.

Despite a fast pace in the opening period, neither team could exert much in the way of a shooting gallery in the first, with only 11 total shots between the clubs in a period that became defined by special teams.

The Phantoms’ Eastern Conference leading power play went to work on its lone chance just past the midway point of the period, and their most lethal goal scorer struck for the game’s first goal. Ex-Springfield Falcon Greg Carey was the beneficiary of a perfect cross-crease pass from Corban Knight at 13:05 to give the Phantoms the 1-0 lead. It was Carey’s league-leading 16th power play goal of the season and fifth against the Thunderbirds alone. 

Lehigh Valley succumbed to two penalties late in the first to crack the door open for Springfield, but the Thunderbirds’ power play could not find shooting lanes in front of Anthony Stolarz, who made six stops in the opening frame. At the other end, Reto Berra only had five shots to face, with Carey’s tally the only one to beat him. 

The second period turned into a scoring bonanza, kickstarted by Kyle Rau, who had already served two minor penalties through the first 25 minutes of regulation. After Stolarz made a pair of diving saves with the puck near the goal line, the Thunderbirds dug in, and off a faceoff, Rau picked up a rebound in front off a Dylan McIlrath shot, stashing it home at 8:07 to tie the game, 1-1.

Only 56 seconds would come off the clock before Paul Thompson joined the party, filling the role of trailer on a rush, taking a Denis Malgin cross-ice pass and beating Stolarz over the stick side at 9:03 to put Springfield on top, 2-1.

The Phantoms would not go away at that point, though. After head coach Scott Gordon called a timeout to settle his troops, Radel Fazleev batted an aerial puck in behind Berra at 11:27 to tie the score. In the midst of the goal celebration, the Phantoms drew a roughing minor on the Thunderbirds, and Lehigh Valley took advantage on the ensuing power play.

Just 15 seconds after Fazleev’s goal, Chris Conner filled the slot area, took a feed from Fazleev and beat Berra to the stick side to give the Phantoms a 3-2 lead.

Much like when the score was 1-0, though, the Thunderbirds again showed the resolve to fight back.Dryden Hunt’s long goal scoring drought, which dated back to Dec. 9, came to a close at 16:21 of the second. With a bouncing puck skipping toward Thompson in the left circle, Hunt made it to the front of the net and batted the puck between the legs of Stolarz off Thompson’s backhand try, tying the score, 3-3.

Thompson figured into the game’s deciding goal just 2:14 later, moving over the right wing and snapping another wrister through Stolarz, this time on the stick side, to put the Thunderbirds on top, 4-3. 

The Phantoms knocked on the door in the third period, but never found the equalizer, as Springfield’s penalty killers dug in to kill off two separate Lehigh Valley 5-on-4’s in the third. Springfield’s fourth straight win set a new franchise record, and the four-goal second period was the highest scoring frame in team history.

On the heels of a club record four-game win streak, the Thunderbirds will look to make it five in a row against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop for Hometown Heroes Night presented by United Bank.

Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds 2017-18 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.

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