Checkers Edge T-Birds Late in Weekend Opener
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (8-6-0-0) could not find its offensive legs and fell late in a 2-1 game on Friday night against the Charlotte Checkers (5-5-1-0) at the Bojangles' Coliseum.
Thunderbirds goaltender Chris Driedger showed no signs of slipping as he put together another marvelous opening period performance, as the T-Birds were outshot 12-6 in the first 20 minutes. Charlotte had three power play chances to try to open the scoring, but the Springfield penalty kill had the answers to keep the score even.
At the other end, Springfield's best scoring chance came in the opening 30 seconds when Paul Thompson raced after a bouncing puck right in front of Alex Nedeljkovic, but the Charlotte netminder was able to kick out the forehand try with the leg pad.
The scoreless deadlock and scrappy affair continued into the midpoint of regulation. Blaine Byron dropped the gloves with Clark Bishop following a hard Bishop check on Cliff Pu, but the Thunderbirds were forced to go shorthanded as a result. With mere seconds left on the advantage, Steven Lorentz finally cracked the deadlock at 9:33 by beating Driedger with a shot from the left circle after he found the puck in his feet.
The Thunderbirds, down but not defeated, answered back instantly, as Aleksi Heponiemi won a puck on the right wing wall, and Sebastian Repo cranked a one-time slapper through Nedeljkovic at 10:02 to tie the score. Penalty kills remained strong from there, as both clubs failed to break the tie on separate power plays before the second frame concluded.
Driedger bailed his defense out on more than one Checkers shorthanded chance in the final period, but on Springfield's final power play - its seventh of the night - the Checkers finally made Springfield pay as Colin Markison raced up the right wing and squeezed a wrister through Driedger's legs to give Charlotte the game-winner with 5:11 to play in regulation.
Driedger was saddled with yet another hard-luck loss despite stopping 26 of 28 against the defending champions. Nedeljkovic snapped a five-game winless drought in the Charlotte crease, turning away 17 of 18 Springfield offerings.
The Thunderbirds get another crack at the Checkers on Saturday night for a 6:00 p.m. affair inside the Bojangles' Coliseum.
Following this weekend's road trip, the Thunderbirds return home for the annual T-Birds 101 School Day game on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 10:35 a.m. against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
For more ticket information or to become a 2019-20 Springfield Thunderbirds ticket package member, or to purchase single game tickets, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com. day!
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