Valk's OT Winner Salvages 5-4 WinMar 2, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (26-28-2-1) gave up a three-goal lead in the final period, but recovered to take a 5-4 overtime win over the Hartford Wolf Pack (26-25-5-3) on Friday night at the MassMutual Center.
The Thunderbirds entered the game having won five of the last six against the Wolf Pack, and after a fast-paced start, Springfield picked up right where they left off. Just past the midpoint of the first, Bobby Farnham moved himself in front of Hartford goaltender Chris Nell and successfully deflected a long range slapper from Chase Balisy into the net to make it 1-0 at 10:51.
Just 24 seconds later, Alex Grenier got just his second goal since the All-Star Classic, taking a saucer pass from Dryden Hunt and backhanding in one motion to beat Nell on the stick side to make it a 2-0 game at 11:15.
Curtis Valk wanted to join the scoring party next, and after picking up the secondary helper on the Grenier goal, he decided to be the triggerman at 16:40. After Hunt dodged a check on the right wing, he chipped it toward the middle, where Valk stepped around a defender before blasting a slap shot over Nell's glove hand to make it a 3-0 game.
Nell was relieved after allowing the three goals on just 10 shots, and Charles Williams entered to make his AHL goaltending debut.
As if the period could not have produced any more highlights, goaltender Harri Sateri wanted to join in on the party. With less than 10 seconds left in the period and rookie Filip Chytil staring at a seemingly open net, it was Sateri who said "No!" emphatically, flashing the glove out to take a sure goal away from the 18-year-old.
Hartford may not have scored late in the second, but another of their teenage stars would finish a chance early in the second, as Lias Andersson broke up Sateri's shutout with a hesitation move to the middle of the ice from the bottom of the right circle. The Wolf Pack rode the momentum from Andersson's tally into through the period, but despite having three power play chances, they failed to get closer.
After exiting the game shaken up earlier in the period, Balisy would add a goal to his ledger in the closing minute of the period. Mark Fayne intentionally fired a shot wide of the glove side of Williams, where the puck ricocheted back in front to Farnham. In one motion, the veteran backhanded it through the top of the crease to the waiting stick of Balisy, who finished it to make it a 4-1 game with just 48 seconds left in the period.
For a second straight period, though, the Wolf Pack would storm out of the gates. This time, it was Adam Tambellini who beat Sateri just 19 seconds into the third to make it a 4-2 game. Hartford would claw one goal closer at the midpoint of the period, with Vinni Lettieri forcing one through Sateri's glove at 10:17 to make it 4-3.
Lettieri would not be finished. Just 6:18 later, the first-year pro found his way to the front of the net to slam home a rebound from a Vince Pedrie point shot at 16:35 to make it a 4-4 tie. Springfield mustered only one shot in a third period that saw them get outshot by the Wolf Pack by a 19-1 margin.
All of that was wiped clean though for the start of overtime. It took just 29 seconds for Valk to be the hero. After Ludwig Bystrom found Valk at the right wing of the offensive zone with a bank pass, Valk chipped the puck to himself in the middle of the ice. As he was falling down on his stomach, he whistled a wrist shot through the five-hole of Williams to salvage the 5-4 victory for Springfield, despite being outshot 42-18 for the game.
The Thunderbirds come right back to their home rink on Saturday night to close the season series with the Charlotte Checkers. Springfield is 12 points behind Charlotte in playoff positioning entering this weekend, and the home team has won each of the first seven games in the season series. The Thunderbirds will look for an even split of their first season competing against Charlotte.
From there, the Thunderbirds take to the road to finish their weekend with their fourth Sunday afternoon trip to the Dunkin' Donuts Center against the Bruins. Springfield has won two of the first three Sunday road games in Providence to this point in the season.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about Thunderbirds Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.