Bussi & Bruins Narrowly Edge Zherenko & T-Birds, 2-1

December 3, 2022 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Springfield Thunderbirds News Release

Providence Bruins' Chris Wagner battles Springfield Thunderbirds' Vadim Zherenko
Providence Bruins' Chris Wagner battles Springfield Thunderbirds' Vadim Zherenko
(Springfield Thunderbirds)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-10-0-4) could not find an insurance marker in the third, which proved costly in a 2-1 Providence Bruins (13-3-3-2) victory on Saturday night at Amica Mutual Pavilion.

The T-Birds came out with a purpose, forcing rookie Bruins goaltender Brandon Bussi to be busy in the opening five minutes with six saves in short order. The opening 20 minutes went without any tallies, but both Bussi and Springfield rookie backstop Vadim Zherenko were sturdy in turning away a dozen shots each.

The opening period also took on an old-time hockey feel, as, on two occasions, combatants from the two rivals dropped the mitts in spirited tussles. The two teams combined for 40 first-period penalty minutes.

Even though the T-Birds could not take advantage of 1:50 worth of power play time to start the second, Nikita Alexandrov still got Springfield the game's first goal at 2:46 of the period. Alexandrov and Matthew Highmore crisscrossed their way inside the Providence zone, and Alexandrov took the drop pass in the right circle and beat Bussi over the shoulder to give the visitors the 1-0 edge. Highmore's helper gave him at least one point in eight of his last nine games.

The Bruins were kept at bay for the most part in the middle period, but a late power play nearly got the game evened up in the closing minutes. After Zherenko made an initial save, the puck was sitting free just outside the blue paint for Oskar Steen, who thought he had an open net, until Tyler Tucker slid across to block the shot and maintain the 1-0 lead for Springfield into the intermission. Zherenko stopped all 24 shots he faced in the game's first 40 minutes.

Springfield had a golden opportunity to add onto their 1-0 lead when both Kai Wissmann and Nick Wolff were called for minor penalties at the 3:40 mark of the third period. In desperate need of a kill, Providence fended off the two-minute, two-man disadvantage, with Bussi making three superb saves on Alexandrov over the course of the two minutes.

Providence responded in kind with the tying goal from Vinni Lettieri just seven seconds into a power play, evening things up, 1-1, at 10:15 of the third.

With less than three minutes separating the division rivals from overtime, Lettieri was at the middle of the game-winning play, as he and Luke Toporowski freed up a loose puck behind the goal line, and Toporowski found Justin Brazeau at the edge of the crease. The big winger patiently outwaited Zherenko, deking to the backhand to tuck it home with 2:55 to play, giving Providence its first lead, 2-1.

Zherenko was saddled with a hard-luck defeat despite making 32 saves on 34 shots. Bussi finished with 25 saves on 26 Springfield shots.

The T-Birds complete their second 3-in-3 weekend of the season as they visit the Bridgeport Islanders for a second consecutive Sunday at Total Mortgage Arena. Puck drop is set for 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

Thunderbirds fans can reserve their seats for the 2022-23 season and lock in the best prices and member benefits by calling (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visiting

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Providence Bruins' Chris Wagner battles Springfield Thunderbirds' Vadim Zherenko
Providence Bruins' Chris Wagner battles Springfield Thunderbirds' Vadim Zherenko


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