Furious 3rd Period Charge Earns T-Birds A PointDec 28, 2016
(Photo Courtesy Jon Tenca/Puck Stopper Photography)
Bridgeport, CT – The Springfield Thunderbirds (11-12-4-2) received a pair of three-point nights from a pair of feisty forwards, but ultimately could not complete a valiant comeback try in a 5-4 overtime loss at the hands of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (17-12-0-0) on Wednesday at the Webster Bank Arena.
On a night with animosity still lingering after Connor Jones committed a match penalty on Dec. 2 with an illegal check to the head of Thunderbirds rookie Jayce Hawryluk, the Sound Tigers took the first steps towards ending their five-game losing streak, thanks to a defense that became active in the offensive zone.
Bridgeport opened the scoring at 9:26 of the first, as the Jones’ twins, Connor and Kellen, dug the puck loose near Mike McKenna’s goal. As McKenna lost his stick in front, the puck found its way to defenseman Jon Landry at the right circle, and the defenseman snapped a quick try over McKenna’s empty blocker hand to put Bridgeport ahead 1-0.
In a first period that had a surprisingly timid feel and a lack of penalties, the Thunderbirds once again found themselves on the defensive as the Sound Tigers made their way back onto the score sheet, this time from Ryan Pulock, who sneaked into the offensive zone off the bench, took a feed from Eric Boulton and walked in front before sliding a soft wrister between McKenna’s legs to make it 2-0 at 15:50.
A tame first period quickly gave way to a testy second period, beginning with a pair of Bridgeport penalties on Pulock and Steve Bernier for cross-checking and boarding respectively. The Thunderbirds, though, could not take advantage on either power play. Instead, Springfield used some good old-fashioned mucking and grinding to cut the Bridgeport lead to a single goal.
After Joey Diamond scooted to the side of the goal and shuffled a pass toward the blue paint, Ryan Horvat located the rebound on his backhand and slid the puck past Stephon Williams at 7:17 to make it a 2-1 game.
As the Thunderbirds continued to threaten to tie the score, it was Horvat who again found himself at the epicenter of action, but this time it would be in a negative light. The rugged forward was sent off the ice for the game at 13:52 with a major penalty on a boarding infraction on Bernier, who left the game injured.
It took the Sound Tigers almost the full five minutes to do any damage, but off a crisp pass from Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang rifled a quick wrister past a sliding McKenna with just 1:44 left in the period to give Bridgeport a 3-1 lead into the third period.
On this night, though, Springfield refused to go away quietly, and it showed in a two-goal blitz to start the third period. Chase Balisy started the sequence, taking a feed from Diamond in tight before outwaiting Williams on the forehand to bring the Thunderbirds back to 3-2 at 2:40.
Just 1:02 later, Balisy was again in the middle of the things, tipping a Diamond pass just barely wide of the goal. Balisy, though, stayed with the puck and fed a quick backhand pass to the front of the goal. Newcomer Zac Lynch fielded it and instantly fired a wrister past Williams to tie the score, 3-3, at 3:42.
Bridgeport showed it still had some bullets left shortly thereafter, as Bracken Kearns banked a centering pass from the left-wing corner off of McKenna to restore the Sound Tigers lead at 4-3 with 12:51 to play.
However, once again the Thunderbirds reached deep to find an answer. This time, Tim Bozon set up in front of Williams, tipped an initial shot from Josh Brown off of the goaltender. Bozon stayed with the rebound and poked it past Williams at the goal line to tie the game one more time, 4-4, with just 3:08 left on the clock.
With the game needing overtime, the Sound Tigers once again showed why they hold the league’s only perfect extra time record. Moving up on a 2-on-1, Ho-Sang patiently waited despite a couple of bobbles of the puck. As Ho-Sang retained control, Travis St. Denis filled the lane in front of McKenna and then fired the game’s final goal at 3:24 of the extra period.
Springfield returns home to close out 2016 for a New Year's Bash against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday, Dec. 30 at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tickets for this $1 Night, featuring the MGM Springfield Pregame Concert Series, are available by visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or by calling (413) 739-GOAL.
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.