Near-Miracle Comes up Just Short for T-Birds in Hartford
HARTFORD, CONN. - After dominating Providence on Sunday, the Springfield Thunderbirds (22-23-6-4) came a goal short of overtime in a remarkable last-minute comeback attempt before ultimately falling to the Hartford Wolf Pack (22-25-5-3) by a final score of 3-2 at the XL Center in Hartford on Friday night.
Springfield entered the game with a 33% power play success rate against Hartford in the season series, but the Wolf Pack had answers after penalties to Matt Finn and Ryan Lindgren had put Hartford down two men for 1:33.
The Wolf Pack, in turn, got on the board first just 13 seconds after killing off both penalties when Sean Day picked the corner over Chris Driedger's right shoulder and wristed it past the Springfield netminder for his second goal in two games.
Driedger stood tall the rest of the way, however, stopping 11 of 12 shots in the opening frame in total. Hartford starter Brandon Halverson went 9-for-9 in the first, with his best stop coming on a Dryden Hunt breakaway bid in the opening half of the frame. Halverson was making his first start against Springfield since the 2016-17 season, when he went 3-2 in five outings against the T-Birds.
For the second period in a row, Hartford took a 2-0 lead early in the middle frame. When an Anthony Greco dump-in attempt went awry, Ty Ronning scored in breakaway fashion only 58 seconds into the middle period. John Gilmour picked up the helper as his stretch feed sent Ronning in alone.
With 18:40 to play in the second period, Steven Fogarty took a centering pass from Ryan Gropp on a 2-on-1 and appeared ready to give Hartford a three-goal lead, but Driedger kept the T-Birds in the game, making a sprawling glove save as he fell to the ice, keeping the score at 2-0.
At the 4:42 mark, Jacob MacDonald was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for tripping, but the T-Birds dug in and were able to kill the penalty off. Springfield would have to kill off parts of two more penalties in the second period and begin the third with 19 seconds remaining on a Tomas Jurco minor penalty for tripping. All the while, the T-Birds could not solve Halverson, who upped his save total to 15 through two periods of play and Driedger, for the second period in a row, went 11-for-12.
With 12:50 to play in the third period, MacDonald marched into the Hartford zone, wristed it on goal and it trickled behind Halverson to the goal line. Halverson got some help from the hockey gods and the puck stayed out of the net.
After the Thunderbirds pulled Driedger with less than three minutes to play, Vinni Lettieri threw the puck on the empty net from this own blue line at the 17:02 mark and scored, giving the Wolf Pack a 3-0 lead.
The T-Birds again brought Driedger to the bench and began an improbable comeback try at the 18:27 mark when Chris Wideman wristed one through Halverson from the left-wing circle.
Driedger went right back to the bench, and in turn, Dryden Hunt fired a right-wing wrister through traffic and into the twine with 54 seconds to play, making it a 3-2 game.
Driedger finished with 34 saves in the losing effort and scampered to the bench in the dying seconds, and Wideman's last-second bid clanged the post and stayed out before Paul Thompson could get to the loose puck in the crease. Springfield's three-game win streak over the Wolf Pack came to a close as well.
Up next, the Thunderbirds stay in the Constitution State and take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena on Saturday night for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop.
Following the two-game weekend, the Thunderbirds return to the MassMutual Center on Friday, March 1 for Boomer Bobblehead night presented by Stop & Shop, as the T-Birds and Wolf Pack square off once again for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop. On Saturday, March 2, New England Patriots Super Bowl champion Trey Flowers will be on hand for a meet-and-greet beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the MassMutual Center concourse.
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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