Thunderbirds' 4th 3-in-3 Opens vs. BridgeportDec 2, 2016
Springfield, MA– The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-7-2-2) begin their December slate of games on Friday night at the MassMutual Center as they host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-6-0-0) for a 7:05 p.m. ET puck drop.
The Sound Tigers and Thunderbirds got familiar with one another in the month of October, playing three times in the span of 14 days between Oct. 16 and Oct. 30. The Thunderbirds' first-ever victory came at the hands of Bridgeport on Oct. 16 in a 2-1 win at Webster Bank Arena. Brody Sutter and MacKenzie Weegar each scored a goal and added an assist in the club's first triumph, while Reto Berra only needed to stop 17 of 18 Sound Tigers shots.
Bridgeport exacted some revenge in the season series with a resounding 5-1 victory on Oct. 28 at the MassMutual Center. Bracken Kearns provided the spark for the Sound Tigers offense with a goal and two assists in what was the largest margin of defeat in Thunderbirds history.
Just two nights later, though, playing in his third consecutive contest against Bridgeport, Berra was splendid, denying all 28 shots he faced in a 2-0 win on Oct. 30. Included in that performance was a successful kill of a late Bridgeport 5-on-3 advantage in a 1-0 game.
The Thunderbirds are currently in the throes of a franchise-high six-game winless slump, dropping five of the six contests by a single goal, and with three of those coming in overtime or a shootout. Paul Thompson has been the steadiest offensive contributor for Springfield, scoring a team-high five goals and chipping in 13 points, the most on the Thunderbirds.
Springfield is slated to receive some help up front, though, as 20-year-old Jayce Hawryluk is expected to make his American Hockey League debut on Friday night. A second-round pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2014 NHL Draft, Hawryluk led the Brandon Wheat Kings to a Western Hockey League title in 2015-16, scoring 47 goals, adding 59 assists, and posting a +59 rating while also displaying an edginess that resulted in 101 penalty minutes.
In net, Berra has gone through a tough stretch of his own, having been pulled from the net after allowing two goals on four shots on Nov. 26 at Hershey. Nevertheless, Berra's 2.25 goals-against average still places him in the top 10 of all AHL goaltenders, and his three shutouts are tied for the most league-wide with Toronto's Antoine Bibeau.
Mike McKenna was strong in relief of Berra last Saturday against the Bears, coming off the bench to stop 19 Hershey shots and give his team time to pull to within a goal late in regulation. McKenna is still seeking his first victory since Oct. 29, having gone without a victory in his last four starts.
On the Bridgeport side, the Sound Tigers have surged to within two points of first place in the crowded Atlantic Division, behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In winning seven of their last ten games, the Sound Tigers have received stellar goaltending from AHL rookie Eamon McAdam. The 22-year-old has won each of his first five starts this season, posting a goals-against average of 2.33 to go along with a .919 save percentage.
Friday's contest marks Star Wars Night and another $1 Night featuring the MGM Springfield Concert Series featuring the Crawdaddy Mushroom Band. Following the fourth tilt with the Sound Tigers on the campaign, the Thunderbirds hit home ice again on Saturday for the first Teddy Bear Toss in Thunderbirds hockey history, presented by Teddy Bear Pools and Spas. Additionally, tomorrow night's game is Military Appreciation Night, presented by Smith & Wesson.
Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds Season 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).