Tippett, Hunt Spark 3rd Period Blitz over PenguinsJan 4, 2020
WILKES-BARRE, Penn. – The Springfield Thunderbirds (20-16-2-0) capped off a 4-for-4 road trip with a defiant 6-3 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (17-14-3-2) on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Penguins, who entered in a salty mood after falling 6-2 on home ice an evening ago, took control of the first period, registering 11 of the game’s first 17 shots, After Anthony Angello rang a shot off the crossbar, narrowly missing with a chance to open the scoring, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton quickly bounced back.
At the 10:57 mark of the period, the Penguins set up a simple offensive zone play with Sam Miletic stationed in front of the goal creating a screen on Springfield goaltender Philippe Desrosiers. Macoy Erkamps lifted a wrist shot into the traffic, where Miletic deflected it off the post, then Desrosiers’ skate and into the net to give the Penguins the 1-0 advantage.
The Thunderbirds offense could not get much going, but they had one glorious chance to score in the early minutes, with Owen Tippett alone in the bottom of the right circle, but the pass to him from Aleksi Saarela kicked off his skate and into the corner, and Springfield failed to connect.
Springfield would come out in the second period with a much higher energy level, and at 4-on-4 play just 1:21 into the middle period, Thomas Schmitsch aggressively pinched up from his defense position to take a center feed from Saarela just outside the crease. After Casey DeSmith made an initial save, Schemitsch gathered in the rebound right along the right-wing goal line, where he sneaked a second shot from the sharp angle past DeSmith to tie the game, 1-1.
Springfield’s power play created chances in the first half of the period, but could not break the 1-1 tie, and Adam Johnson got the Penguins back in front as he circled the offensive zone on his forehand to the left wing circle before lifting a wrist shot through a screen and past Desrosiers at 11:03 to make it 2-1 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Penguins kept the Springfield offense at bay until the final two minutes of period two. First, Dryden Hunt scooped up his second power play goal in two games against the Penguins, scooting to the right side of the crease, accepting a feed from Paul Thompson, and putting the puck upstairs over the glove hand of DeSmith to make it 2-2 at 18:19.
Springfield would not be content with a tie, though, and just 1:12 later, with just 28.6 seconds left on the clock, Owen Tippett moved into the right circle and found Jake Massie jumping up into the play from the left point, and the rookie defenseman sniped it over the short-side shoulder of DeSmith to give the Thunderbirds the 3-2 lead into the final period.
The Penguins would not go away quietly in the third, as Jordy Bellerive bull-rushed a T-Birds defender to steal the puck and move in on net. His curl-and-drag set up a shot that went off Desrosiers, then the top of the crossbar, and off Desrosiers’ back to tie the game, 3-3, at 3:24.
Then the T-Birds cranked the offense into overdrive, beginning with Hunt setting up Tippett in the slot, where the rookie stepped to the left side and snapped a wicked wrister through DeSmith’s five-hole at 12:26 for what would be his second straight game-winning goal and 14th overall on the season.
Less than two minutes later, at 14:16, Rodridgo Abols finally cashed in on his first AHL goal when a Brady Keeper slap shot shattered his stick, yet allowed the puck to find Abols outside the crease, and the Latvian center fired a forehand shot into the yawning net to make it 5-3.
Hunt’s night would not be done either as Tippett and Keeper set up Springfield’s winger on a back-post deflection at 14:50 to round out the six-spot in the T-Birds’ fourth straight road victory. It is the first time in club history that the T-Birds have won four straight games away from the MassMutual Center.
With the win, the T-Birds now sit three points ahead of the Penguins for fourth place in the Atlantic Division, and they now sit just a single point behind Providence for third.
Springfield returns home for a two-game weekend on Jan. 10-11 against Bridgeport and Providence respectively. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. in both games.