Thunderbirds Host Phantoms to Close Home-and-HomeOct 27, 2017
Springfield, MA - The Springfield Thunderbirds (1-6-1-0) will look for a second consecutive home ice triumph as they play host to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (6-1-0-1) on Friday night at the MassMutual Center for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop.
After being forced to go shorthanded 10 times on Sunday, the Thunderbirds once again saw their discipline elude them in the opening period of these two teams' earlier meeting this week at the PPL Center on Wednesday night.. A slashing call in the first minute put Springfield shorthanded, but the struggling Phantoms power play could not strike on their first chance of the period.
Lehigh Valley entered Wednesday's action just 1-for-33 on power plays this season, but they would get a 5-on-3 chance at the midpoint of the period and the unit finally came through. Setting up at the left post, first-year pro Mike Vecchione slammed home a cross-crease feed from veteran Chris Conner to put the Phantoms ahead at 11:19 of the period.
Lehigh Valley would add another one from former Springfield Falcon Colin McDonald to extend the lead to 2-0 after one period, but Springfield came storming back in the middle frame. Newcomer Bobby Farnham, a North Andover, Mass. native, sensed the need for an energy boost, taking matters into his own hands and dropping the gloves against towering defenseman Sam Morin.
After both teams took minor penalties, the game moved to 4-on-4 play, and the Thunderbirds made Farnham's gesture worthwhile. As Curtis Valk moved in to dislodge a loose puck, a Phantom defender fell to the ice, anticipating a tripping minor to Valk. Instead, the play continued and Dryden Hunt slammed home a feed from between the circles for his fifth goal of the young season. Springfield had cut the lead to 2-1 just 4:58 into the period and Valk's team-best point streak extended to seven games.
Just under four minutes later, Maxim Mamin moved in over the left wing. Sensing he didn't have help in the first wave of the rush, Mamin froze with it along the left wing wall, then saucered a backhand feed to the slot to pinching defenseman Thomas Schemitsch. Playing on the eve of his 21st birthday, Schemitsch snapped it past Alex Lyon on the glove hand side to even the slate, 2-2.
Goaltender Sam Montembeault would then gain the spotlight as the superstar of the third period, denying a slew of Lehigh Valley chances to get Springfield into overtime en route to a career-best 36 save night.
In the extra period, though, the Thunderbirds' penalty killers would finally run out of gas after Matt MacKenzie was given a five-minute major for crosschecking. With the remainder of overtime to work with a 4-on-3, Lehigh Valley found victory off the stick of Greg Carey with just 57.9 seconds to play. It was already Lehigh Valley's third overtime game in just eight games, the most in the AHL this season.
Despite surrendering the two power play goals, the Springfield penalty kill has remained strong in the face of adversity in its past two games, killing off 17 of 19 opponent power plays (89.5%) through the nearly 125 minutes of action between Sunday and Wednesday.
Springfield will have to look for victory without one of its veteran leaders on Friday, though, as Chase Balisy earned his first career NHL call-up earlier on Friday. The Thunderbirds' all-time leader in games played (84), points (47) and assists (28) was among the AHL's top five penalty minute men in 2017-18, with 29 minutes through eight games. He had 26 PIMs in the whole duration of the 2016-17 season.
The Thunderbirds next hit the road for the first-ever matchup against the Binghamton Devils on Saturday at the Floyd L. Maines Memorial Auditorium. Puck drop in New York on Saturday is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages start at just $12 per game, and Thunderbirds Full Season Ticket Members receive the most benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug and a commemorative jersey. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visitwww.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.