Zherenko Marvelous to Earn a Point in Providence

Mar 19, 2023

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -  The Springfield Thunderbirds (32-22-2-5) the Providence Bruins (37-14-8-2) earned a point behind a spectacular netminding performance from Vadim Zherenko, but fell in a shootout, 3-2, on Sunday inside Amica Mutual Pavilion.

For the second time this weekend, Zherenko got the start and he started red-hot in the opening period amid a Providence firestorm of activity in the Springfield zone. When the dust settled, the Bruins had outshot the T-Birds 16-4 in the opening 20 minutes and carried much of the play, but the rookie netminder was the ultimate equalizer as he turned away every Providence attempt, including four alone from Oskar Steen.

Springfield might have only had four shots in the period, but they came the closest to breaking the 0-0 tie when Will Bitten took a saucer feed from Mathias Laferriere and rang the puck off the crossbar behind Kyle Keyser with just over a minute to go in the first.

Moments after the T-Birds' first power play ended past the seven-minute mark of the second, Adam Gaudette got Springfield the elusive 1-0 lead as he raced up the ice over the right-wing side, recovered the puck in the corner, then circled the net before lifting a forehander over Keyser to give Springfield the lead.

Zherenko got to have a quieter middle stanza, but he was there to withstand all 11 Providence shots to get the game to the third with Springfield still in front, 1-0.

Providence picked up a power play near the midpoint of the third period, and the extra man finally got the Bruins on the board as Joona Koppanen beat Zherenko on the blocker side from the left circle on the Bruins' 39th shot of the game to even the score, 1-1. 

It appeared the game would swing back in Springfield's favor when it was the T-Birds' turn to earn a power play with exactly 3:00 to go. Providence had scored one shorthanded goal all season, but Koppanen changed that as he raced up to a loose puck to the right of Zherenko and successfully banked it in off the Springfield goalie with 2:39 to play to give the Bruins their first lead, 2-1.

Down but not out, the Springfield power play picked itself up, and with Zherenko on the bench, Martin Frk spotted Mathias Laferriere in the slot, and he beat Keyser on the glove side to tie the game, 2-2, with exactly a minute to play.

Zherenko and the T-Birds were put in a predicament after regulation ended, as Tyler Tucker picked up an extra two minutes for roughing in an altercation after the horn, and Providence had a 4-on-3 power play to begin overtime. Once again, though, Zherenko was superb, making seven saves in overtime alone, including a diving, game-saving stop with an outstretched arm on Shane Bowers in the power play's closing seconds. 

The T-Birds tried to reward their goaltender with a payoff, and Gaudette had a glorious chance in the final seconds, but Keyser answered the bell with a sprawling save to his right to send the game to a shootout. 

Neither team could solve a goalie on the first five attempts, but in the bottom of the third round, with a chance to win the game, Koppanen completed his version of a hat trick with a shot that eluded Zherenko on the stick side, giving Providence the 3-2 victory. Zherenko made the second-most saves in a game in T-Birds history, denying 53 attempts over 65 minutes.

The T-Birds get some rest before continuing their season-long, seven-game road trip on Friday in Hartford against the Wolf Pack.

Thunderbirds fans can reserve their seats for upcoming games by calling (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.

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