Zherenko, Gaudette Star in 5-2 Win at Hartford

Oct 27, 2023

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Springfield Thunderbirds (2-4-0-0) broke out offensively and snapped a four-game winning streak by the Hartford Wolf Pack (4-1-0-0) by virtue of a 5-2 win at the XL Center on Friday night.

After going 0-for-6 on the power play in their first matchup against the Wolf Pack, the T-Birds' man-advantage unit got off to a much better start inside enemy territory. With time dwindling on their first 5-on-4 of the evening, captain Matthew Peca neatly slipped a pass into the slot area, where Adam Gaudette rifled home his league-leading sixth of the season at 9:56 of the opening frame. 

Gaudette's goal also tied a T-Birds team record, as the sharpshooter has now tallied goals in five straight games. Anthony Greco is the only other T-Bird skater to pull off that feat, during the 2017-18 season.

Vadim Zherenko was at his best early on, fending off 10 Hartford shots in the first before excelling with 18 more denials in the second.

The T-Birds' offense gave Zherenko some support at 3:14 of the second when Mikhail Abramov looked off a teammate on a 2-on-1 and snapped a perfect wrist shot over Louis Domingue's right-hand trapper to give Springfield a 2-0 cushion. The goal was Abramov's first goal and point of the season.

7:04 later, with the T-Birds operating on a 5-on-3, a familiar face found the net again, as Gaudette tapped in a loose puck from the left post after a Zach Bolduc point shot came down at the feet of Nathan Walker. Walker calmly slid the loose biscuit to the red-hot Gaudette, whose AHL-best seventh of the season made it 3-0 at 10:17. 

Hartford, not surprisingly, would not go down quietly, and Alex Belzile deflected a Connor Mackey pass from the blue paint in behind Zherenko with just under three minutes to go in the second to finally dent the Springfield netminder, sending the Wolf Pack into intermission trailing 3-1.

Springfield had a pivotal penalty kill situation to start period three, and the unit that went 6-for-6 on the evening shined to not only kill off that disadvantage but add a shorthanded tally on another PK situation at 7:53. Walker made it happen by diving to chop a puck out of the defensive zone. With a clear path to the puck, Domingue aggressively exited the net to try to clear it away from Walker. However, Peca arrived to hold the offensive zone. With Domingue in no-man's land, Peca fired the puck through the goalie's legs down to Walker at the side of the net, and the Aussie slammed it into the empty net to make it a 4-1 game.

Anton Blidh and the Wolf Pack still would not relent, as the veteran beat Zherenko on a loose puck chance at 14:27 to make it a 4-2 game, and Hartford went to yet another power play with a chance to get closer.

However, the Hartford power play never could solve Zherenko or the Springfield penalty kill, and following a sixth successful dispatching of a penalty, MacKenzie MacEachern hit the empty net for his first goal of the season, winding down the scoring with just 1:18 to play.

With his second victory and another 37 saves, Zherenko has now stopped 106 of 113 shots he has faced this season, good for a .938 save percentage.

The T-Birds look to carry the winning momentum home for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop on Saturday against the Providence Bruins inside the MassMutual Center.

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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