Driedger Strong, But T-Birds' Offense Comes up Empty in Bridgeport
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (27-26-7-5) could not back another strong performance by their netminder as they fell by a 4-0 final score to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (37-20-5-2) on Sunday afternoon at the Webster Bank Arena.
The Sound Tigers, who entered with the best points percentage on home ice of any team in the AHL, got the St. Patrick's Day luck in the first half of the opening period. After killing a first-minute Springfield power play, Bridgeport took a 1-0 lead off one of the stranger goals of the year.
Off a face-off win by Jeff Kubiak, Chris Casto punched a shot from the right point toward the net. En route to Chris Driedger, the puck went off a body and arced high into the air before plopping down behind Driedger and into the net. Casto's fourth of the year would end up as the only goal in the first period.
Other than that unfortunate carom, Driedger was otherwise masterful in the first, stopping 13 of 14 shots. At the other goal crease, Jeremy Smith was perfect in turning aside nine Springfield tries in the opening 20 minutes.
The second period brought sturdier netminding and zero offensive output. Each team killed off an opposition power play, and Smith made his best save of the period with a kick stop off a Blaine Byron redirection from the high slot. Driedger was at his athletic best off a bevy of chances, the best of which may have been a John Stevens wrister from point blank range. Bridgeport held a 25-19 shot advantage through the game's first 40 minutes.
A penalty in the final 10 seconds of the second period put Springfield shorthanded for 1:51 to start the third. With a single second left on the penalty, Tanner Fritz lofted a long wrist shot off the stick of Jeff Kubiak and past Driedger to make it a 2-0 game at the 1:51 mark of the third.
The Thunderbirds would have two more power play chances, but the offense would not be able to solve Smith on this day, and the 29-year-old netminder picked up his first shutout in three seasons with 29 stops. Chris Bourque and John Stevens would round out the scoring with a pair of empty netters in the last 2:12 of the final period.
The T-Birds get some well-deserved rest before their next game is on Friday, March 22 against the Binghamton Devils on another 3-2-1 Friday inside the MassMutual Center. The next night, the 3rd annual Pucks N' Paws takes over the the Thunderdome as the T-Birds welcome the Laval Rocket on March 23.
Springfield Thunderbirds 2019-2020 ticket memberships are on sale now and include the best benefits of being a Thunderbirds ticket holder. To learn more about memberships and single game tickets, visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
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American Hockey League Stories from March 17, 2019
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