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 Springfield Thunderbirds

Gaudette Makes T-Birds History, But Laval Emerges with Two Points

April 6, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Springfield Thunderbirds News Release

Springfield Thunderbirds vs. the Laval Rocket
Springfield Thunderbirds vs. the Laval Rocket
(Springfield Thunderbirds)

LAVAL, QC - The Springfield Thunderbirds (29-33-3-2) witnessed history from their leading scorer, but an offensive surge from the Laval Rocket (32-28-6-2) was too much, as the home team emerged with a 7-4 win on Saturday afternoon inside Place Bell.

The matinee affair doubled as a day at the fights in the first 2:45 of the game, as two separate scraps elevated the temperature on the two benches and throughout the Place Bell crowd. First, Sam Bitten came to the aid of his brother Will after the elder Bitten took a sturdy check from Tobie Bisson. Six seconds after Sam and Bisson scrapped, Brayden Guy made an impression in his second Thunderbirds game as he scored a winning decision in a tussle with Laval penalty minute leader Riley McKay.

Things did not get off on the right foot for the T-Birds, as a net-mouth scramble just 4:04 into the contest saw Mitchell Stephens open the scoring, jamming a forehander through Vadim Zherenko and giving Laval the 1-0 edge. That goal came moments after Zherenko made a marvelous sliding blocker save on a Stephens one-timer in the opening minute.

The Rocket and their raucous crowd were hoping to run Springfield out of the rink just 3:17 later when 2023 fifth-overall pick David Reinbacher stepped up in the offensive zone to the right circle and uncorked a post-ringer under the bar to make it a 2-0 game on the rookie's second AHL goal.

Despite the early stumbles, the T-Birds stayed with the program. At 11:06, with an abbreviated power play, Mikhail Abramov connected from the low slot off a centering feed from Hugh McGing, cutting the Laval lead in half. Ryan Suzuki nearly equalized the game just seconds later when he slipped behind the defense, but Rocket netminder Jakub Dobes stood up to Suzuki with a sturdy blocker save.

Despite the Suzuki chance at Dobes' end of the rink, Zherenko continued to have a far busier period than the Laval goalie. To his credit, the T-Birds' second-year backstop stabilized and helped Springfield kill off a pair of abbreviated Rocket man-advantages to keep the 2-1 score intact after 20 minutes.

The T-Birds began the second period on another power play, and after a brief 5-on-3 ended, Adam Gaudette got the game evened up with a wrister from the right side just 1:03 into the middle period. The goal, his 39th of the season, brought him back into a tie with Samuel Fagemo of Ontario for the AHL goal-scoring lead.

Springfield, however, could not vault to the lead, and before long, the Rocket had scored two more to take a 4-2 advantage on goals 1:06 apart from Arnaud Durandeau and Philippe Maillet.

Down but unfettered, the T-Birds again showed resolve. Gaudette drew a penalty shot after being held on his way in on goal on a breakaway. With a chance to become the first man in the AHL to reach 40 goals this season, Gaudette made no mistake, deking to the backhand and roofing a shot over Dobes to make it 4-3 at 11:40. The sharpshooter's 40th goal also marked the first time since 1990-91 that a Springfield AHL player recorded 40 goals in a single season.

Gaudette's marker also lit a fire under his team. Just 45 seconds later, Abramov whistled a cross-seam pass to a crashing Joey Duszak, who beat Dobes to tie the game, 4-4, at 12:25.

The 4-4 tie carried into the third, but an unfortunate break wound up putting Laval back in front for good. After Leo Loof fearless blocked a shot up near his face, the loose puck landed flat at the feet of Durandeau, who snapped it into an open net before Zherenko could locate it, and the Rocket lead was restored, 5-4, at 6:37 of the third.

This time, a third comeback was not in the cards for Springfield, as Stephens added his second and third goals of the night with a power-play redirect at 10:25 and an empty-netter with 1:11 remaining to finish the scoring. Stephens finished the night with three goals and two assists.

The T-Birds are next in action on Friday, April 12, when they begin a three-game weekend in Hartford against the Wolf Pack. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. at the XL Center.

Fans can reserve seats for Thunderbirds' hockey action in the 2023-24 season by calling (413)-739-GOAL (4625) or visiting

Images from this story

Springfield Thunderbirds vs. the Laval Rocket
Springfield Thunderbirds vs. the Laval Rocket


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