SPRINGFIELD, MA – The Springfield Thunderbirds closed out their inaugural season with a 5-1 victory last night over their I-91 rival, the Hartford Wolf Pack, before a crowd of 6,217. The Thunderbirds outscored their opponents in the final three games of the year 16-4 and won the final five home games.
Thunderbirds Head Coach Geordie Kinnear was very happy with the performance.
“We played real well. Second period we got into a little bit of a track meet which I don’t like. Guys gave a great effort. Finished strong for sure.” Kinnear said.
MacKenzie Weegar got the Thunderbirds on the board first when Jared McCann setup Weegar with a cross-crease feed to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0. The goal was Weegar’s 14th of the season.
The Thunderbirds extended their lead almost 90 seconds into the second period. This time MacKenzie Weegar setup Jared McCann and McCann put it in for his fourth goal in two games and his 11th of the year to give them a 2-0 lead.
When a slashing penalty to Anthony Greco expired, Mike Downing setup Greco on a breakaway and Greco used his speed to beat Wolf Pack goaltender Chris Nell stick side for his 16th goal of the campaign to go up 3-0.
The Wolf Pack ended the shutout streak for Thunderbirds goaltender Adam Wilcox when Chris Brown deflected a shot to make it 3-1.
The Thunderbirds’ power play got into the scoring mix late in the second period when Vince Pedrie was called for hooking. Paul Thompson tipped in a shot from Dryden Hunt to make it 4-1 after two periods. It was Thompson’s team leading 19th goal of the year.
The final goal of the season came on another power play over halfway through the third period. Jayce Hawryluk ripped a slap shot to beat Chris Nell to make it 5-1.
Goaltender Adam Wilcox finished the game with 23 saves with his third win in a row. Wilcox finished out the year between the Syracuse Crunch and the Springfield Thunderbirds with a record of 25-13-5-4 with a 2.63 goals against average and a save percentage of .906.
The one thing that continues to show in Springfield is the passion for hockey. Kinnear felt the atmosphere in the MassMutual Center was great.
“The guys really fed off the crowd. We talked about at the start of the year when I first took this job about having a product on the ice that the city can be proud of. I think the city felt that and I thought the guys felt it. We’re building something. We’re not there yet but will simply get there.” Kinnear said.
While the Thunderbirds did not qualify for the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs, the Thunderbirds will return to action this fall for the 2017-18 season at the MassMutual Center.