Comets Charge Back to Steal Win in OT

Nov 18, 2016

(Photo courtesy Lindsay A. Mogle)

Utica, NY– The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-5-2-1) fell victim to a furious charge from the homestanding Utica Comets (4-9-1-0) in a 5-4 overtime defeat Friday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Thunderbirds followed their game script from Wednesday in Hartford to a "T" as Springfield got out of the gates with plenty of fire. One change from the Wednesday script, though, was the need to kill a penalty, as the T-Birds successfully got rid of an Ed Wittchow slashing minor. 

Less than a minute following the successful kill, the Thunderbirds turned a successful kill into momentum offensively. After getting tugged on an open crash of the net, Sena Acolatse found his way to the edge of the crease, positioned himself for a rebound off a Mike Downing shot, and punched the rebound through Comets goaltender Thatcher Demko to give Springfield the 1-0 lead at 7:20.

The Thunderbirds had their sights set on making it a 2-0 lead in 4-on-4 action just past the midpoint of the period, but Demko stonewalled Brent Regner on a sprawling, splits-inducing save on what would have been the captain's third straight game with a tally. 

While Demko held the lead to 1-0 at that time, he was not able to do so in the final two minutes of the period. Armed with their third power play of the frame, the Thunderbirds immediately struck as MacKenzie Weegar stepped into a heavy slap shot from the right circle, beating Demko over the right shoulder to give Springfield a 2-0 first intermission lead with just 2:04 left in the period.

Mike McKenna only needed to make seven first period saves for the Thunderbirds, but he was tested moments after Weegar’s goal, as Jake Virtanen came around the net with a dangerous wraparound chance, but the veteran kept the leg pad on the ice to stonewall the Canucks prospect.

The Thunderbirds wasted little time adding to their lead as period two kicked off. Dryden Hunt found his first goal since Oct. 22 by virtue of throwing a sharp angle shot from the left wing side that eluded Demko at 1:02 of the second. It was the fastest goal to start a period in Thunderbirds franchise history.

Springfield was tested later in the period because of another franchise first, as McKenna was whistled for a tripping minor, the first goaltender infraction of the season. The Thunderbirds, though, were able to kill it off, the 12th consecutive successful kill for the Springfield penalty killers.

The Comets, though, were not ready to roll over. First, Alex Grenier took a feed from Cody Kunyk over the right wing side and elevated a wrist shot over the shoulder of McKenna to cut the lead to 3-1 at 7:53.

Not to be outdone, Cole Cassels joined the party for Utica, as he parked himself in front, watched Joseph LaBate win a board battle, and swing a pass in front. Cassels’ first goal of the year came just 2:52 after Grenier’s fifth of the season, and the Springfield lead that was once 3-0 shrunk to 3-2.

Utica would not get any closer in the second, though, as the Comets mustered only five total shots in the middle period, a period in which Utica had been victimized 17 times by opponents entering play.

The Comets had another period, though, and they continued to be pesky despite their last-place mark in the standings heading into play. LaBate tied the score at 1:57 as he shoveled a rebound over McKenna’s glove.

The Thunderbirds made the Comets need one more comeback when Josh Brown laced a one-timer past Demko at 5:24 right after a Springfield power play concluded. 

Utica needed until the final three minutes to claw back even, as this time Curtis Valk drew a penalty shot and, in turn, beat McKenna over the glove to tie the game.

As the game ticked into overtime, Darren Archibald picked up his second overtime goal in a week, as he beat McKenna on a power move to the backhand, even though it was ruled no-goal initially. Archibald ended up drawing a penalty shot, but before he even needed to take it, the prior play went to review and was deemed a good goal, rendering the penalty shot meaningless in a 5-4 Comets win. 
After the heartbreaking defeat on Friday, the Thunderbirds will return home for their first matchup of the season with the Providence Bruins on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7:05 p.m. ET. The night marks a doubleheader featuring a special game involving the Boston Bruins Alumni Team. 
Fans can get into both the Bruins Alumni game and the Thunderbirds game with a purchase of a Thunderbirds game ticket. Packages are available by visiting
Coverage of all Thunderbirds games can be heard on NewsRadio 560 WHYN and via the iHeartRadio app.
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).
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