Feb 23, 2019

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (22-23-6-5) scored three unanswered goals to erase a 3-0 deficit but ultimately fell to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (32-18-5-2) in a shootout by a final score of 4-3 on Saturday night at Webster Bank Arena.


After Sam Montembeault was able to stop the first five Sound Tigers shots, Ryan Bourque took a cross-ice feed at the right circle from Mitch Vande Sompel and wristed the puck past Montembeault on the glove side at the 8:24 mark, giving Bridgeport an early 1-0 lead.


At the 11:53 mark, Vincent Praplan, who was making his Thunderbirds debut, was whistled for slashing, but the T-Birds dug in and killed off the penalty. At the 16:00 mark, Sebastian Repo was whistled for hooking, but again Springfield kept the Bridgeport power play from extending the margin, and the 1-0 score held into the first intermission.


Both goalies were kept busy in the opening 20 minutes with Montembeault stopping 12 of 13 shots and Bridgeport’s Jeremy Smith stopping all 10 shots he faced.


After Dryden Hunt and Yannick Rathgeb got caught up in a tussle just past the blue line in the Springfield zone early in the second,, both players were sent to the box for roughing with Rathgeb picking up an additional two minutes for roughing at the 2:40 mark in the middle period. However, at the 3:30 mark, Connor Jones marched into the T-Birds zone shorthanded and snapped one past Montembeault from the right wing, giving Bridgeport a 2-0 lead.


At the 9:31 mark, the Sound Tigers again extended their lead when Chris Bourque took a nifty centering feed by Travis St. Denis, who was stationed behind Montembeault’s net, and wristed it to the back of the net, giving the Sound Tigers a 3-0 lead. Connor Jones picked up his second point of the net with the secondary helper.


In need of a momentum spark, Ryan Horvat dropped the mitts with Seth Helgeson past the midpoint of regulation, and the bout immediately paid dividends when Hunt snapped the puck home off a clean faceoff win by Paul Thompson just one second later. Hunt’s second goal in as many games was his 21st of the campaign in just 46 games.


Trailing 3-1 entering the third, the Thunderbirds made the Sound Tigers sweat for every minute of the final stanza. After Kyle Burroughs was called for boarding at the 4:47 mark in the third period, Thompson won another faceoff cleanly, this time to Jacob MacDonald. The Thunderbirds’ power-play quarterback then fed it across a seam to Harry Zolnierczyk, who marched to the left circle, wristed it on goal and found twine five seconds into the power play at the 4:52 mark to cut the lead to 3-2.


The goal gave Zolnierczyk 44 points on the season, tying his career-high mark that he set during the 2014-15 season with the Sound Tigers.


With 7:25 to play in regulation, the comeback became complete when Matt Marcinew got a piece of a Chris Wideman wrist shot from the right wing wall and tied the score at 3-3. Anthony Greco picked up the secondary helper on the tying goal.


Both goalies stopped each shot they faced in the last 7:25 and the game went to overtime. Montembeault’s marvelous night ended with 42 stops on 45 Bridgeport attempts, while Smith turned away 28 of 31.


While both teams traded chances in overtime, neither could break through and the game went to the shootout.


After Hunt opened the shootout with a patient move that could not beat Smith, Michael Dal Colle moved in and scored on Montembeault with a backhand-to-forehand maneuver.


While Montembeault would bounce back to stop Chris Bourque in the second shootout round, Smith would get the ultimate victory as he turned away Thompson before Ludwig Bystrom lost control of the puck as he attempted to make his deke in the third and final round.


With the two-game weekend completed, the Thunderbirds return to the MassMutual Center on Friday, March 1 for Boomer Bobblehead night presented by Stop & Shop, as the T-Birds and Wolf Pack square off once again for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop. On Saturday, March 2, New England Patriots Super Bowl champion Trey Flowers will be on hand for a meet-and-greet beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the MassMutual Center concourse, presented by King Ward Coach Lines and Ventry Associates. The night will double as Military Appreciation Night. 


Springfield Thunderbirds 2019-2020 ticket memberships are on sale now and include the best benefits of being a Thunderbirds ticket holder. To learn more about memberships and single game tickets, visit or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).


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