Tokarski, Wolf Pack Stymie T-BirdsJan 4, 2019
HARTFORD, Conn. - In their first game of 2019, The Springfield Thunderbirds (15-12-4-3) were unable to solve Hartford goaltender Dustin Tokarski, falling by al 3-1 score to the Hartford Wolf Pack (16-15-2-2) on Friday night at the XL Center.
Operating on an early power play after captain Paul Thompson was called for holding less than two minutes into the first period, the Wolf Pack nearly broke the scoreless tie on a chance down low, but a bouncing puck trickled just wide of Montembeault and the Thunderbirds net to keep the game scoreless.
Springfield’s penalty kill did have a much-improved night, going 4-for-4 on the evening, and Sam Montembeault finished his night with 24 stops on 26 shots.
However, a tough first period did in the Thunderbirds. Hartford got on the board first at the 7:08 mark when Ryan Gropp’s left-wing shot ricocheted off of Montembeault’s left pad directly to Lias Andersson who tapped the puck home from short range, giving the Wolf Pack a 1-0 lead at 7:08.
The Wolf Pack added to that total, registering their second of the game nearly four minutes later at the 10:59 mark when John Gilmour picked up a rebound off a shot by Ville Meskanen at the right point and slapped it past Montembeault on his glove side.
Trailing 2-0 into the closing moments of the first, the Thunderbirds would cut the lead in half at the 18:25 mark. After receiving a pass from Matt Mangene at the right faceoff circle, Jacob MacDonald wristed the puck past Hartford goaltender Dustin Tokarski on a power play, ending a 12-game goal drought to cut the Wolf Pack lead to 2-1.
In a tightly checked period that saw the score remain 2-1, the T-Birds played a stout defensive game, holding the Wolf Pack to just six shots in the middle stanza, but Hartford matched Springfield with a sturdy showing in their own zone, keeping Springfield to just seven shots in the second period.
With 4:09 to play in the second period and with the T-Birds operating on their third power play of the night, Blaine Byron wristed a shot that deflected off a body directly to Mangene, who nearly tied the game from the right wing circle. However, Tokarski made an incredible recovery, diving with his glove along the goal line to stonewall Mangene and keep the score 2-1.
Springfield peppered the Hartford net in the third, but none of their 13 attempts could pierce Tokarski’s equipment, and Peter Holland sealed the Wolf Pack win with an empty netter at 19:32 of the third.
As the Thunderbirds return home Saturday, the club will sport Springfield Indians throwback jerseys on Blast from the Past Night presented by MassMutual. The jerseys will be auctioned live following the game to cap off a night with a 1990s look and feel throughout the game presentation.
The Thunderbirds remain on home ice Sunday afternoon for a tangle with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the final Sunday afternoon home game of the season.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about 2018-19 Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including the lowest prices for the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.