SPRINGFIELD, MA – The Springfield Thunderbirds ended their 10 home game losing streak with a 5-2 over the Utica Comets last night at the MassMutual Center.
“The special teams stepped up tonight. We got a power play goal. The PK (Penalty Kill) had some big kills. We still Have to stay out of the box. All around a good 60 minutes for sure,” Thunderbirds Head Coach Geordie Kinnear said.
Mackenzie Weegar got the Thunderbirds on the board first set up by Juho Lammikko with a great screen in front. Weegar took a wrist shot that beat Comets goaltender Richard Bachman to go up 1-0, 5:30 into the game.
Borna Rendulic responded for the Comets with a wrist shot to beat Thunderbirds goaltender Mike McKenna to tie the game at 1-1.
McKenna faced a lot of shots in the first period stopping 15 of the 16 Utica attempts.
The Thunderbirds would take control of the game with three unanswered goals in the second period. In the opening minutes of the second period, Dylan Mcllrath from the Thunderbirds and Joseph LaBate from the Comets dropped the gloves in a solid bout. That tilt seemed to be the spark that the Thunderbirds were looking for.
“That’s my role is kind of to add that spark. I wasn’t really looking for it but just kind of came to me and I am glad I got to show my stuff and get the boys going,” Mcllrath said.
The Thunderbirds responded with their first power play goal of the evening. A shot from Jayce Hawryluk was knocked down by Bachman, but Chase Balisy was there to clean up the trash and stuff home the rebound to put Springfield up 2-1. Ryan Horvat would create an odd man rush with Shane Harper after serving a penalty. Harper beat Bachman glove slide to give the Thunderbirds a 3-1 lead. The Comets received a power play late in the second period but the Thunderbirds made the best of that. Juho Lammikko setup a screen and took a wrist shot to beat Bachman to go up 4-1 heading into the third period.
The fourth goal ended Bachman’s night after the second period. Thatcher Demko replaced Bachman between the pipes for Utica for the start of the third period.
Chad Billins got the Comets within reach with a goal less than five minutes left in the game to make it 4-2. The Thunderbirds penalty kill came big late in regulation, killing off a Hawryluk double minor for high-sticking. Paul Thompson gave the Thunderbirds an insurance goal with 48 seconds left in regulation.
Thunderbirds goaltender Mike McKenna made 32 saves in the win last night.
“From top to bottom, we had a lot of guys that really played hard tonight. They Did everything they needed to and you know our team plays hard. When we stick to our structure and we get great penalty kills like we did tonight, It makes things easier. It was a fun game. I had a great time. I think I am not the only one which is a good feeling in the room right now,” McKenna said.
It’s only the third time this season that the Thunderbirds have scored five goals in a game.
The Thunderbirds will have another tough task at hand when they take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight at 7:05 P.M.
“Wilkes-Barre is a team that always plays strong defensively. They’re very structured and they always have been. They have got great personnel. That organization has been good for a long time for good reason. It’s something we’re aware of but we’re going to stick to our plan and if we played like we did tonight, Play within our structure, Play with pace, Play with grip, It will be a great game,” McKenna said.