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Series Preview: Thunderbirds vs. Checkers

May 20, 2022 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Springfield Thunderbirds News Release


Springfield Thunderbirds center Nathan Todd (left) vs. the Charlotte Checkers
Springfield Thunderbirds center Nathan Todd (left) vs. the Charlotte Checkers
(Springfield Thunderbirds)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds will open the Atlantic Division Finals on Sunday, May 22 at 3:05 p.m. inside the MassMutual Center for Game 1 against the top-seeded Charlotte Checkers.

Game 1 tickets can be purchased. The full schedule for the Atlantic Division Semifinals is as follows - games marked with an asterisk (*) will be played only if necessary.

Game 1: Sunday, May 22 - Checkers @ Thunderbirds, 3:05 p.m. - Click Here for Tickets

Game 2: Wednesday, May 25- Checkers @ Thunderbirds, 7:05 p.m. - Click Here for Tickets

Game 3: Saturday, May 28- Thunderbirds @ Checkers, 6:00 p.m.

Game 4*: Sunday, May 29- Thunderbirds @ Checkers, 6:00 p.m.

Game 5*: Tuesday, May 31- Thunderbirds @ Checkers, 7:00 p.m.

Springfield and Charlotte are meeting in the postseason for the first time in the two cities' AHL histories. The Checkers won the Calder Cup the last time the AHL's hallowed trophy was awarded in June of 2019, and Charlotte also finished the regular season as the Atlantic Division champions, posting a .625 points percentage in 72 games. Springfield had the same .625 points percentage, but the Checkers earned the division title off a tiebreaker, as Charlotte won 36 games in regulation to Springfield's 31.

The regular-season series between the top two seeds in the Atlantic leaned the way of the Thunderbirds, who posted a 6-2-0-0 record against their rivals from North Carolina. Springfield also was a perfect 4-0-0-0 against Charlotte in four matchups inside the MassMutual Center. The series began with Springfield erasing a 3-1 second period deficit en route to a 5-3 win on Oct. 31 inside the Thunderdome. The T-Birds' goaltending shined in the final three games on home ice against Charlotte, allowing a combined four goals over that time. Over the full season series, the Thunderbirds outscored Charlotte, 25-21.

Charlotte's two victories came by scores of 4-2 and 5-1 inside Bojangles' Coliseum on Jan. 20 and March 11 respectively. Three former Thunderbirds made up the top-three leading point-getters for the Checkers in the season series. Owen Tippett, who has since been traded to Philadelphia, paced all Charlotte skaters with six points (2g, 4a) in just three games against Springfield, while forward Aleksi Heponiemi (1g, 4a) and defenseman Chase Priskie (5a) each chipped in five points.

Rookie Nikita Alexandrov paced the potent Springfield attack against the Checkers, putting up seven points (3g, 4a) in eight games against Charlotte, while Matthew Peca added six assists and Sam Anas produced five points (2g, 3a).

All three of those players recorded points in each of Springfield's three wins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In total, six T-Birds had points in every game against the Penguins: Anas (2g, 5a), Peca (2g, 4a), Will Bitten (2g, 3a), Tommy Cross (1g, 3a), MacKenzie MacEachern (2g, 2a), and Alexandrov (1g, 2a).

Despite having six goals scored upon them in Game 3 on Sunday, the T-Birds have continued to receive stellar netminding from both Charlie Lindgren and Joel Hofer, who combined to stop 110 of 119 shots they faced in the Penguins' series, good for a .924 save percentage.

Lindgren opened the series with a masterful 50-save performance in a 4-1 Game 1 victory, and Hofer followed that up with 34 saves and an unforgettable first goalie goal in T-Birds history in a 6-2 win in Game 2.

The Thunderbirds' offense has helped buoy the strong play by their netminders, scoring 17 goals in just three postseason games, averaging 5.67 per contest. Only Colorado (6.00 goals per game) has averaged a higher per-game goal total in the Calder Cup playoffs entering the Division Semifinals.

The winner of this series will have home ice in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they will take on the winner of the North Division Finals (Laval Rocket vs. Rochester Americans) in a best-of-seven format.

Thunderbirds' playoff tickets, including single-game tickets and Pay As We Play plans, are on sale now! To purchase your seats, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.





Images from this story

Springfield Thunderbirds center Nathan Todd (left) vs. the Charlotte Checkers
Springfield Thunderbirds center Nathan Todd (left) vs. the Charlotte Checkers

  

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