T-Birds Exact OT Revenge in Wilkes-Barre

Dec 2, 2023

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- The Springfield Thunderbirds (11-8-2-0) got the last laugh in a wild, back-and-forth game, 4-3, over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (10-8-3-0) in overtime on Saturday night inside Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

As was the case in each of the first two games in the season series, the first period came and went with goaltenders remaining perfect. On this night, Vadim Zherenko and Joel Blomqvist turned in all the stops, with Zherenko the busier of the two with nine first-period stops, while Blomqvist stopped six. Zherenko had the two best saves of the frame in two minutes, denying both Sam Houde and Jagger Joshua with the leg pad on in-tight scoring chances.

Each team also had two power plays in the first period, but the man-advantage units could not generate much offense, and the 0-0 deadlock remained into the intermission.

After quiet opening periods, the power plays came to life in the second, and it took the Penguins just 1:14 to get on the board first. Sam Houde got his stick on a loose puck in the slot and bounced a fluttering shot toward Zherenko's cage, getting a helpful tip from Peter Abbandonato for the game's opening goal, which doubled as Abbandonato's first as a Penguin.

Despite the deficit, the T-Birds rallied on a chance of their own after two penalties in a 1:16 span were called against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With the 5-on-3 advantage, rookie Zach Bolduc took advantage, rifling home a one-time slapper through Blomqvist, tying the game at 7:49. Calle Rosen and Hugh McGing earned the helpers on Bolduc's fourth goal of the season.

After the equalizer, both teams had more power play chances to take leads, but the penalty killing strengthened, along with continued good work from Zherenko and Blomqvist.

The game took on a truly chaotic feel in the third period. After the T-Birds failed to convert on two separate power play chances, it was the fourth line that got Springfield its first lead. Mathias Laferriere deked around a fallen defender and took a shot from the left circle that plopped down behind Blomqvist. Drew Callin was in the right place to tap it across the line for his third of the season, giving the T-Birds the 2-1 lead at 4:31.

Unfortunately for the T-Birds, it was just the beginning of a see-saw 20-minute period, as the Penguins equalized during a delayed penalty just 1:05 later, as Valtteri Puustinen rammed home a loose puck after Zherenko and the defense made two sprawling saves earlier in the sequence. 

With the game back even, 2-2, the T-Birds faced their toughest challenge of the night when Hunter Skinner was ejected and given a match penalty for a hit to the head of Penguins' forward Sam Houde. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had three minutes of uninterrupted power play time, but could not solve the PK nor Zherenko. 

After surviving the major, the T-Birds then got their power play chances as the Penguins took a too-many-men minor, as well as a tripping call to Jack St. Ivany. With time waning on the club's 8th power play of the evening, the T-Birds finally broke through as Matthew Peca snapped a wrist shot through Blomqvist at 16:38 to make it a 3-2 game.

Once again, though, the Penguins had a rebuttal, as Abbandonato scooted into the slot, took a pass from Will Butcher, and slipped it through Zherenko's legs to tie the game, 3-3, with just 1:39 to go in regulation, setting the stage for the second overtime in as many nights between the division foes.

Overtime was a riveting, back-and-forth affair with both goaltenders answering the bell on multiple occasions. Adam Gaudette had a breakaway with the game on his stick, only to see Blomqvist turn him away, while Ty Smith had perhaps the Penguins' best chance with the T-Birds' defense out of sorts, but Zherenko had the denial.

At last, with less than a half minute left separating the teams from a shootout, Laferriere circled the offensive zone to the right side before slipping a puck near the crease. Matt Kessel had moved up on the play and put himself in the perfect position to get a piece of it and beat Blomqvist, giving Springfield the 4-3 overtime triumph. It was just Kessel's second goal of the season, and it gave the T-Birds their first home win since Oct. 29.

The T-Birds get some time to rest before a rare single-game weekend next Saturday as they welcome the Bridgeport Islanders to the MassMutual Center for the annual Teddy Bear Toss.

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

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