SPRINGFIELD, MA – Matt Buckles‘ game-winning goal lifted the Springfield Thunderbirds past the Providence Bruins last night at the MassMutual Center by a final score of 4-3. The Thunderbirds have now won their last three home games.
Thunderbirds Head Coach Geordie Kinnear had mixed feelings on his team’s first period.
“We scored and we got flat and I thought they scored and got going and built their game. That part I didn’t like. When you score you want to build your game carry momentum. We didn’t do a great job with that but I thought in the second and third was more how we liked to play.” Kinnear said.
Jayce Hawryluk responded for the Thunderbirds with scoring on the first shot of the game with a wrist shot stick-side to beat Bruins goaltender Malcolm Subban to give them a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins responded by tying it late in the first period when former Springfield Falcon Jordan Szwarz when he beat Thunderbirds goaltender Adam Wilcox from a centering pass to score his team-leading 22nd goal of the year to tie it at 1.
Matt Buckles scored for the Thunderbirds but the goal was waived off due to goaltender interference.
The Thunderbirds retook the lead in the second period when Zac Lynch put in a rebound past Subban with assists from Stephen MacAulay and Rob Hamilton to make it 2-1. It was Hamilton’s first point in the American Hockey League.
The Bruins would not go away quietly late in the second. Chris Porter put in a backhander past Wilcox to tie it at 2-2.
The third period featured a multiple-point night with Paul Thompson and Jared McCann. McCann fed a pass to Thompson, who fired a one-timer for his team-leading 18th of the year to give the Thunderbirds a 3-2 lead 1:19 into the third period.
The Bruins tied the game for third time when Peter Cehlarik beat Wilcox to make it 3-3. Danton Heinen and Wayne Simpson assisted on Cehlarik’s goal to have their second assist of the evening.
Matt Buckles put an end to the game when he put a loose puck past Subban to give the Thunderbirds a 4-3 lead.
The Bruins received a power play opportunity with 2:05 remaining in regulation when Thunderbirds defenseman Matt MacKenzie was called for slashing, but the Bruins could not capitalize on the opportunity.
With the Thunderbirds out of playoff contention, Providence, Hershey, and Bridgeport are still looking to clinch a playoff spot. Three points separate all three teams with Bridgeport on the outside looking in as they trail Hershey by one point for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
The Thunderbirds will play Bridgeport on Friday and hope to be playoff spoilers for the Sound Tigers. When the Thunderbirds have played the Sound Tigers, emotions have run high on both teams.
“I think this is the third time in the last like three weeks that we’ve played Bridgeport. They don’t like us and I am sure we don’t like them very much either. They got a playoff spot to play for and we want to play spoilers so it will be a good game Friday.” Buckles said.
The Thunderbirds will close out the regular season on Saturday the I-91 rivalry will conclude when the Hartford Wolf Pack come to town. Both puck drops are scheduled for 7:05 pm.