T-Birds Welcome Flair, Wolf Pack Friday

Feb 9, 2017

Springfield, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds (17-20-7-2) will play host to their I-91 rivals and a cultural icon on Friday night when the Hartford Wolf Pack (17-25-3-2) visits the MassMutual Center.

The festivities in downtown Springfield will get underway at 7:05 p.m. ET, with special guest, pro wrestling legend Ric Flair, The Nature Boy, dropping the ceremonial first puck before the fourth matchup of the season between the Thunderbirds and Wolf Pack.

Springfield has picked up five out of a possible six points against the last-place Wolf Pack in three previous matchups, including a 3-2 win at the MassMutual Center on Dec. 30. Jared McCann picked up the game winning goal in the third period, while Anthony Greco contributed a goal and an assist in the win.

Hartford has consistently been ranked dead last in the AHL this season in goals allowed (165), and the Wolf Pack has given up three or more goals in each of the last five games they have played. Despite that, Hartford held a modest two-game winning streak before falling 4-2 on Saturday to the Rochester Americans at the XL Center. 

The matchup in Springfield is the first of four straight road matchups for the Wolf Pack, while Springfield will play six of its next eight contests inside the MassMutual Center, where the Thunderbirds still seek their first home ice win dating back to Jan. 4 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Playing against a Wolf Pack team equally desperate to gain points in the competitive Atlantic Division, the Thunderbirds will look to string together a pair of consecutive wins in this, the first of three consecutive three-game, three-night weekends. The Springfield offense has picked up eight goals in its last two games after scoring just eight in the prior four games combined.

Since his return from the Florida Panthers, Paul Thompson has picked up from the streaky offensive pace he carried in the month of December. Thompson has now recorded points in five consecutive AHL games, including the game-tying goal with less than a minute to play on Tuesday night in Bridgeport. 

Entering the game on Tuesday night in relief of Reto Berra and playing in his first action since Jan. 22,Mike McKenna allowed the Thunderbirds a chance to force overtime in Bridgeport, stopping 30 of 32 shots in less than 50 minutes of game action. He made a franchise-record 19 saves in third period alone as the Sound Tigers unleashed a 20-shot barrage at the Springfield net. 

Between Friday and the end of the season, the Thunderbirds and Wolf Pack will meet seven times in the final 31 games of Springfield's season, including three times by March 1. 

After Friday's matchup with their division rivals, the Thunderbirds will next welcome the Utica Comets to the MassMutual Center on Saturday for the first of two matchups in seven nights against a Utica club fighting for playoff position in the AHL's North Division. 

Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds 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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