Bruins Best T-Birds in Back-and-Forth BattleNov 10, 2023
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-6-0-0) could not make a 2-0 first-period lead stand up as the Providence Bruins (4-4-1-2) rallied for a 5-4 victory on Friday night at the Amica Mutual Pavilion.
The game's scoring began on an innocent-looking rush by Drew Callin at the 9:40 mark of the first. Chasing a loose puck into the offensive zone, the T-Birds' centerman moved on his backhand into the left circle before putting a low backhander on the target. Bruins netminder Brandon Bussi was unable to field it cleanly, though, as it slipped through the wickets to make it 1-0 for Springfield on Callin's second goal in two games in Providence.
Though the T-Birds managed only five shots in the first 14:01 of game action, they made the most of those attempts as Zachary Bolduc added to the lead with a bank shot off Bussi from the right-wing corner. The rookie's second goal of the year made it a 2-0 game, with Hugh McGing and Joey Duszak getting credit for the helpers.
However, the Bruins would not allow the T-Birds to waltz through the evening easily, and Georgii Merkulov crashed the net, scooped his own rebound out in front of Vadim Zherenko's net, and tucked the second chance past his countryman to cut the lead to 2-1 at 17:24.
Just 1:24 later, the Providence attack caught their own fortunate break, as Luke Toporowski's flip shot from the left point skipped off Marc McLaughlin and through Zherenko to tie the score, 2-2. The Bruins got back even on the scoreboard while outshooting Springfield 13-7 in the opening 20 minutes.
It was clear the offenses were going to star on this night as the two clubs combined for three goals in a 52-second blitz to start the second. Fabian Lysell gave the Bruins their first lead with a one-timer from the slot at 1:31 to make it a 3-2 game. That Providence lead would last just 17 seconds, as Will Bitten tapped a loose puck across the line after Bolduc hit the post aiming for his second of the evening, making it 3-3.
The Bruins, though, had yet another reply to the equalizer, as Alec Regula threw a sinking wrist shot at the net from the right point, shocking Zherenko and restoring the Providence lead, 4-3, at 2:22 of the period.
That spelled the end of the evening for Zherenko, as T-Birds head coach Drew Bannister opted to insert veteran Malcolm Subban into the goal crease. The former Bruin validated his head coach's decision, as he denied nine straight shots to close the period, including multiple high-danger chances.
The T-Birds offense also rewarded Subban's great work in relief to tie the game with 2:16 left in the second. Adam Gaudette dropped the puck for a Calle Rosen one-timer in the high slot on a 3-on-2 rush. Rosen's stick exploded in half, but in a stroke of puck luck, the disc found its way to Nathan Walker at the right side of the goal, where the winger tucked it around Bussi and into the twine to tie the score, 4-4, heading into the third. Walker's goal was his ninth of the season, tied for second-most in the AHL behind Gaudette's 11.
After the chaos of the first two periods, the third period was filled with splendid goaltending, as Subban and Bussi kept the score 4-4 into the game's final two minutes, with Bussi coming up with a wonderful blocker save on Gaudette on a breakaway as one of his 24 saves on the night.
Subban would end his night with 16 saves in a strong relief performance, but the leading point-getter in the game, Dan Renouf, got the last laugh for the Bruins when he slapped a shot over Subban's blocker side with just 1:46 remaining in regulation to seal Providence's 5-4 win, the team's first over the T-Birds in four tries this season.
The T-Birds continue the road swing in Bridgeport on Saturday night before paying a visit to Hartford for an 11:00 a.m. school day game on Wednesday. The T-Birds come back home next Friday, Nov. 17 for another Deuces Wild Friday at the Thunderdome, where the T-Birds will take on the Utica Comets for their first of four matchups on the season, with puck drop at 7:05 p.m.
Fans can reserve their seats to be a part of the Thunderbirds’ hockey action for the 2023-24 season by calling (413)-739-GOAL (4625) or visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.