Late Comets PPG Stuns T-Birds

Mar 30, 2024

UTICA, N.Y. -- The Springfield Thunderbirds (29-30-3-2) battled back from an early two-goal deficit, but a late power-play goal from the Utica Comets (29-26-4-5) resulted in a 4-3 Comets win on Saturday night at Adirondack Bank Center. 

For a second straight evening, the T-Birds relented a goal to their opposition in the opening half of the first period. Just 4:00 into the action, Shane Bowers skated the puck across the T-Birds blue line, creating a 2-on-1. Bowers opted to take it himself, beating Colten Ellis on the glove side and making it 1-0 for Utica.

Springfield's power play had two chances in short order to try to equalize, but the man-advantage came up empty each time. Utica made the T-Birds pay for that at 12:26 when Will MacKinnon let go a seeing-eye wrist shot from the blue line that nicked the inside of the post and beat Ellis to give the Comets a 2-0 lead.

The Comets continued to have penalty troubles, though, and at 16:28, Tanner Dickinson got Springfield's power play on the board with a perfectly placed wrist shot over the glove of Akira Schmid, and the lead was cut to 2-1. 

The Comets, though, were undeterred, and they restored the two-goal cushion just 1:29 later when Erik Middendorf crashed the net from the right-wing side. Ellis made the first save, but the rebound sat in the crease, and Middendorf polished it off to give Utica a 3-1 advantage at 17:57, a lead that carried through to the break.

The T-Birds' power play again had a chance to turn the tide of the game when a pair of Utica penalties gave Springfield some time on both 4-on-3 and 5-on-3 advantages. Unlike the night before, though, the T-Birds came up empty, and the 3-1 score carried past the midpoint of the game.

With Utica on a power play at 12:15 of the period, Springfield used its shorthanded unit to claw back into the game when Will Bitten won a footrace to a loose puck at the Utica blue line, storming in on Schmid and roofing a shot over the goaltender's trapper to make it a 3-2 game on Bitten's 17th goal of the season. 

Bitten's goal got the T-Birds' mojo back, and 3:12 later, Ryan Suzuki tied the game on his second point of the night. After Adam Gaudette narrowly missed the top corner, the T-Birds' leading scorer retrieved the puck in the left corner and laid it off to Hugh McGing. With little space available, McGing slid a perfect pass through the top of the blue paint to Suzuki, who one-timed it through Schmid to tie the score.

The stalemate carried to the second intermission, and the two teams cautiously played the opening 15 minutes of the third scoreless. Unfortunately for the T-Birds, a Bitten minor penalty opened the door for Utica's power play, and after a Justin Dowling shot rang off the post, Bowers was in the right place to lift the loose change into the twine with 3:18 to play. Bowers' fourth point of the night and eighth goal of the season proved to be the dagger, and for the fourth straight time in the season series between Springfield and Utica, the home team came away victorious. 

The T-Birds' six-game road swing continues north of the border on Wednesday morning for an 11:00 a.m. School Day contest in Toronto against the Marlies at Coca-Cola Coliseum.

Fans can reserve seats for Thunderbirds’ hockey action in the 2023-24 season by calling (413)-739-GOAL (4625) or visiting

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