T-Birds Open 21-22 Season This WeekendOct 15, 2021
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds make their much-anticipated return to the ice inside the MassMutual Center this weekend with a pair of home games to start the 2021-22 AHL regular season. The T-Birds welcome the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. for Opening Night presented by MGM Springfield. The Bridgeport Islanders then pay a visit to Springfield on Sunday for a 3:05 p.m. matinee.
The Opening Night festivities on Saturday will begin with a Pregame Block Party on Court Square from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. featuring a live music performance from Trailer Trash. The event will be rain-or-shine as tents will be placed at Court Square. When the action shifts inside, all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative rally towel and be treated to a special pregame, full team introduction.
The Thunderbirds begin their fifth anniversary season with a new look, as for the first time, the St. Louis Blues will have their prospects take the ice in Springfield as the two clubs begin their affiliation agreement. Head coach Drew Bannister's team will feature one returning member from the 2019-20 Thunderbirds roster in defenseman Tommy Cross. The 32-year-old native of Simsbury, Conn. had 21 points (7g, 14a) in 50 games with Springfield that season.
The new T-Birds roster features eight players with NHL experience, Calder Cup and Stanley Cup champions, and the AHL's leading scorer from the 2019-20 season, Sam Anas. The Quinnipiac product had 70 points (20g, 50a) with the Iowa Wild to capture the AHL's John B. Sollenberger trophy as the league's top point-producer. Anas backed that up with a point-per-game average in 2020-21 with Utica, scoring 23 points in 23 games.
Joining Anas as a key contributor up front is his former college teammate, Matthew Peca, who has topped the 40-point plateau on three occasions in the AHL. Peca was a key piece to the Syracuse Crunch's Eastern Conference championship team in 2016-17, scoring 14 points in 22 Calder Cup playoff games.
A familiar Atlantic Division foe joins the Thunderbirds side this season in the form of Australian winger Nathan Walker. A veteran of 350 AHL games and a Calder Cup finalist himself with Hershey in 2015-16, Walker has also skated in 25 NHL games with Washington, Edmonton, and St. Louis. He scored an AHL career-high 19 goals in just 46 games with San Antonio in 2019-20.
On the blue line, the T-Birds boast one of the most coveted prospects in all of hockey in Scott Perunovich. The 2019-20 Hobey Baker Award winner as the top collegiate player in the country, the Blues' second-round pick in 2018 had 40 points in just 34 games for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, and only the pandemic prevented the team from chasing a potential third consecutive NCAA championship.
All Thunderbirds games in the 2021-22 season can be seen on AHLTV, the league's official streaming platform. Fans can subscribe and enjoy a "Freeview" this weekend by visiting www.ahltv.com. 75 games will also be heard on NewsRadio 560 WHYN AM and on the iHeartRadio app.
For more information on the Springfield Thunderbirds and to order tickets, please visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com. To learn more about becoming a Thunderbirds ticket member, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) to speak to a Thunderbirds representative.