The Springfield Thunderbirds will begin their second year in the American Hockey League playing their home games at the MassMutual Center.
Head Coach: Geordie Kinnear will begin his second year as Head Coach with the Thunderbirds. He finished the 2016-17 season with a record of 32-33-9-2 just finishing under .500.
Captain: Not available at time of article
Last Season: 32-33-9-2 with a record of under .500. They finished sixth in the AHL Atlantic Division and 11th overall in the Eastern Conference. The team did not qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Thunderbirds played in their inaugural season last year at the MassMutual Center after moving from Portland, ME. The inaugural class of Thunderbirds was among the youngest teams in the league, with some of the players getting their first year of experience in the AHL. Paul Thompson led the team in goals with 19. Chase Balisy led the team in points with 45.
Sam Montembeault is a 20-year old rookie goaltender out of Quebec. Monteambeault played in a preseason game on Friday night against the Providence Bruins and made some key saves that a veteran goaltender would make. A lot of young players will be apart of this team this year, but some will enter into their second season in the league.
The Thunderbirds may have the goal scorers they need this year. This is a young team, but in preseason they played like they were veterans on the ice. Springfield has lacked in goal scoring for several years. Special teams could also use some improving. The Thunderbirds had the worst power play in their division only scoring on 14.6 percent of their opportunities. Their penalty kill was good as they only gave up 55 goals on 318 opportunities making it 82.7 percent.
Curtis Valk and his teammate Alexandre Grenier came over from the Utica Comets as they signed with the Florida Panthers during the offseason. Valk and Grenier have years of experience in the American Hockey League. With the Thunderbirds being a young team the coaches brought in Valk to add leadership.
“I am just going to do what I can. For me, I am not overly vocal, but in the room, I want to lead by example for sure whether it’s in practice or in the games,” Valk told reporters after the game. “I want to play the right way. Being one of the older guys here, it’s kind of a different situation for me coming from Utica. I am looking forward to the opportunity.”
Alexandre Grenier is a veteran right winger and his size will help with the other forwards on his line. The 6’5″ 200-pound forward hails from Laval, QC and played for the Utica Comets last year.
Chase Balisy will enter his fourth season into the AHL. Balisy played in all 76 games last year scoring 17 goals and leading the team with 45 points.
Blocked and Reported
Paul Thompson signed with the Las Vegas Golden Knights and will likely play with their AHL affiliate the Chicago Wolves. Thompson led the Thunderbirds in goals with 19. Goaltender Adam Wilcox signed with the Buffalo Sabres during the offseason.
This is a young team that will have help with veterans with experience in the league. The Thunderbirds made it tough for teams that came to play into the MassMutual Center as they 12 out of their last final 14 home games. Time will tell to see where this team could go as its part of the youth development. This team could be fun to watch heading into this season.
The Thunderbirds will kickoff their 2017-18 season this Saturday at the Dunkin Donuts Center against the Providence Bruins with a 7:00 p.m. puck drop.