Hofer, Neighbours Send T-Birds Off to 2023 with WinDec 31, 2022
HARTFORD, Conn. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (14-13-1-4) finished off the 2022 portion of their calendar on a high note, defeating the Hartford Wolf Pack (11-13-1-5) by a final of 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday inside the XL Center.
After finding themselves on the wrong side of 1-0 scores in each of their last six games, Springfield changed their fortunes on Saturday thanks to their red-hot top line. Jake Neighbours jumped on a loose puck in his defensive zone and immediately got his head up ice to spot Will Bitten streaking to the offensive blue line. Bitten received the pass in stride and casually slipped a forehand shot underneath Louis Domingue's pads to make it 1-0 for the T-Birds at 11:19 of the opening frame.
Bitten nearly had another goal later in a shorthanded situation as he and Hugh McGing moved up in a 2-on-1. McGing's initial shot bounced off Domingue, and Bitten arrived to tuck it to the goal line, but the Hartford defense recovered in the nick of time to keep the score 1-0 after the first.
Hartford defenseman Matthew Robertson tied the game with a perfectly-placed wrist shot at 8:07 of the middle period to make it 1-1. The work of Domingue and T-Birds goaltender Joel Hofer took center stage for the rest of the frame, as each man turned away 11 pucks in the period. Both goaltenders also had an edge to their games, as each man took roughing minor penalties after each of them got contacted by opponents.
The goalies continued to be at their best in the final 20 minutes, with Hofer rising to the occasion to stop eight pucks, while a less busy Domingue still kept the game deadlocked, 1-1, heading into overtime.
Springfield carried remnants of a power play into the extra session, but the Wolf Pack penalty kill stiffened. Hofer and Domingue traded back-to-back superb saves, as Domingue denied Brady Lyle on a backdoor play, and at the other end seconds later, Hofer turned the same trick on Tanner Fritz on the doorstep.
Fittingly, this goaltenders' duel needed a shootout to determine a victor, and Hofer and Domingue held up their end of the deal through the first five shooters. Neighbours stepped up in the bottom of round three with a chance to win it, and the 20-year-old sank the Wolf Pack as he slipped a forehander through Domingue's legs for his third consecutive game-deciding goal.
Springfield carries their three-game win streak into the month of January, which begins with another battle against the Islanders at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6 inside the MassMutual Center.
Thunderbirds fans can reserve their seats for the 2022-23 season and lock in the best prices and member benefits by calling (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.