Strong Push Not Enough to Get Past PenguinsOct 21, 2023
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- The Springfield Thunderbirds (1-3-0-0) put forth a strong effort, but could not come away victorious, falling to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2-2-0-0) by a score of 3-1 at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Vadim Zherenko got the start between the pipes for Springfield and had a terrific game, stopping 33 shots on 35 Penguin attempts. On the other end, Joel Blomqvist got the start for the Penguins and picked up his first AHL win with 31 stops.
It was a special night even before the onset of the game for the Bitten family, as Sam Bitten took the ice for his AHL debut alongside his older brother Will, marking the first time in T-Birds history that a pair of brothers skated as Springfield teammates.
Unlike the other games the Thunderbirds have had this season, the first period did not bring any goals and the two teams remained scoreless heading to their dressing rooms. Zherenko was the much busier goaltender during the first period, as he denied all 14 Penguins shots sent his way.
At the 1:35 mark of the second frame, Wilkes-Barre got on the board first. Forward Vinnie Hinostroza broke behind the T-Birds defense, took a stretch feed from Rem Pitlick, and scored on a backhand deke that snuck past Zherenko.
The score did not remain 1-0 for long, as Adam Gaudette continued his red-hot start to the season with a stroke of luck. An innocent clearing attempt around the boards instead saw the puck skitter to the edge of the crease. After linemate Nathan Walker spotted the loose puck, he was stopped by Blomqvist on the initial chance, but the hulking Gaudette slammed the rebound home to tie the game up at 1-1 at the 3:18 mark of the period.
As the game hit its midpoint, Wilkes-Barre forward Jansen Harkins broke away from the pack and went in on a breakaway with a chance to restore the Penguin lead, but Zherenko was up to the challenge and made the stop with the left leg. Later on in the period, T-Birds had a great chance to go up a goal with Zachary Bolduc stripping a Penguins defenseman before making it a 2-on-1 with Will Bitten. Unfortunately for the rookie winger, Blomqvist made the stop, knocking away the shot with his blocker, and keeping the score at 1-1. The second period would not bring any scoring for both teams, as the score remained the same at 1-1 going into the third and final period.
The two teams traded chances to start the third period, but neither team could convert. It was not until the 9:03 mark that one of the teams would take the lead. The Penguins power play finally cracked its dry spell, as Pitlick jabbed a power play goal home after a scramble in front of Zherenko’s crease, giving his team the 2-1 lead.
With 3:01 to go in the game, the T-Birds were given a power play thanks to a Wilkes-Barre bench minor for too many men on the ice. Walker nearly deadlocked the score, but his deflection on a point shot deflected off the crossbar and stayed out. Shortly after the power play ended, Harkins put the game out of reach with an empty-netter, his first goal as a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin.
Springfield’s three-game weekend continues as the team travels to play Lehigh Valley on Sunday afternoon for a 3:05 p.m. matchup against the Phantoms. The T-Birds will look to avenge their home loss on Friday night against the Phantoms and pick up their second win of the season.
The T-Birds return home to the MassMutual Center next Saturday, October 28th for our Ok-T-Bird-Fest game to face off against the Providence Bruins for the second time this season. The puck will drop at 7:05 p.m. at the Thunderdome.
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.