T-Birds' Win Streak Snapped in Hartford
HARTFORD, Conn. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (13-3-2-0) succumbed to a second-period surge from the Hartford Wolf Pack (12-3-2-0) in a 5-3 loss on Friday night at the XL Center. The defeat ended Springfield's season-best five-game winning streak.
Springfield's special teams were a little extra special in an opening period that saw them take a two-goal lead despite having just five shots on goal in the frame. After killing off an early penalty, the T-Birds' power play got its first crack past the midpoint of the period. After being held off the scoresheet in his past four games, Nathan Todd changed that as he ripped a wrist shot from the left-wing circle under the crossbar behind Keith Kinkaid to make it 1-0 at 12:44.
The Thunderbirds' penalty kill was called back into action almost immediately after, and not only did they complete a second successful kill, but they added an offensive punch of their own. Tommy Cross cleared a puck to a waiting Nathan Walker in the neutral zone. Walker moved into the Hartford zone on the left side to create a 2-on-1 with Mackenzie MacEachern, and MacEachern made no mistake with a one-time slapper from the middle of the ice that eluded Kinkaid and gave Springfield a 2-0 lead just 1:41 after the Todd goal.
Looking for his sixth win in seven starts, Joel Hofer started his night in sturdy fashion, turning away nine Hartford shots in the first, including four on the Wolf Pack's power-play chances.
Much the same way the game script materialized on Nov. 12 in Springfield, the Wolf Pack had a major rebuttal in the middle period. Zac Jones, who helped spearhead the Wolf Pack's come-from-behind win two weeks ago, got Hartford on the board for the first time just 34 seconds into the second when he maneuvered into the right-wing circle on an activated rush from his blue line position. He was able to sneak a backhander through Hofer's legs, and the T-Birds lead got trimmed to 2-1.
Just 4:16 later on a power play, the Wolf Pack got even as an initial shot by Jones leaked behind Hofer's pad, and Jonny Brodzinski won the race to the loose change to tuck the rebound home to tie the game, 2-2.
Springfield did not lack chances to add to their total in the middle period, but Kinkaid answered the bell from a tough first period to stop all 15 shots he saw in the second, and he got some help from the goal post as Matthew Peca narrowly missed giving the T-Birds a 3-2 lead on a power play. The Hartford penalty kill went 3-for-3 in the middle frame as well.
Moments after one of those kills, Lauri Pajuniemi got the Wolf Pack on top with a curl-and-drag move to the slot area before backhanding a shot through Hofer on the stick side at 11:37 of the period.
Hartford's power-play then bolstered the lead as veteran blueliner Anthony Bitetto found a lane through traffic at 17:17, beating Hofer upstairs to give the Wolf Pack a 4-2 lead heading into the third. The man advantage added one more when Tim Gettinger deflected a Tarmo Reunanen shot past Hofer at 1:19 of the third period to make it a 5-2 game.
On a night littered with man-advantage opportunities, the T-Birds got one back at the 16:15 mark as Walker found a loose puck around the crease area to beat Kinkaid while the T-Birds were on a 6-on-4 advantage. Springfield's power play went 2-for-7 for the game, but the Wolf Pack's 3-for-5 man advantage proved too much to overcome.
The T-Birds and Wolf Pack get a chance to renew the rivalry on Saturday afternoon at 2:05 p.m. for a matinee matchup inside the MassMutual Center.
For more information on the Springfield Thunderbirds and to order tickets, please visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com. To learn more about becoming a Thunderbirds ticket member, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) to speak to a Thunderbirds representative.
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