SPRINGFIELD, Ma. – The Springfield Thunderbirds scored two shorthanded goals by Anthony Greco and Sam Kurker and goaltender Sam Montembeault made 21 saves to record his second career shutout to defeat the Utica Comets 4-0 in front of a sellout crowd Saturday night at the MassMutual Center.
“What I like is we built our game over through the course of the game. Tough travel last night. Both teams were identical. You play back-to-back. Its important you build off what you did last night and I thought we did that tonight,” Thunderbirds Head Coach Geordie Kinnear” said.
The annual Pink in the Rink game was an emotional one for Greco who lost his aunt to breast cancer a few months ago. He opened up the scoring for the Thunderbirds when he scored his team-leading 24th goal of the season and his sixth shorthanded goal of the season with the setup from Ryan Horvat to put it past Comets goaltender Richard Bachman to make it a 1-0.
“It’s special. It’s something I kind of thought about I guess before the game. To see all the women out there on the ice and for the cause that it was for. It was pretty special,” Greco said.
Cam Darcy was called with a double minor for high-sticking on the Comets. Alex Grenier extended the lead for the Thunderbirds in the second period with a 5-on-3 advantage as he put in a one-timer past Bachman to make it 2-0. Chase Balisy and Ludwig Bystrom would be credited with the assists.
Jayce Hawryluk scored for the first time since January 12 when Bobby Farnham sent him a pass to the right side. Hawryluk sent in a one-timer past Bachman to make it 3-0 Springfield. Curtis Valk would also receive the assist on Hawryluk’s goal. After the goal, Farnham received a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Thunderbirds took advantage as Sam Kurker scored the second shorthanded goal of the night as he tipped in a shot from Chase Balisy to make it 4-0.
Sam Montembeault earned his second career shutout with 21 saves last night.
“I thought he’s built up from the last game. He just gets better all the time. He has put a lot of work in. You can tell he’s sharp.” Kinnear Said
The Thunderbirds have now earned points in their last nine games. Their last regulation loss was over three weeks ago against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Kinnear believes you have to give a lot of credit to the veterans and the leadership group that is in the locker room.
“We have a lot of great ones. They kind of took the team and have moved forward with it. I think you see how we played in the third period. You can tell how we’re more business like,” Kinnear said.
Farnham believes its a combination of things.
“I don’t think there was a lack of passion when we hit that little skid there in Charlotte and Lehigh (Valley). I think we hit a rough patch. A lot of teams will in this league and we addressed it. We came back from it and its all aspects of the game,” Farnham said.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. We’ve had some ups and downs. We’ve gained confidence from beating a lot of really good teams,” Greco said.
The Thunderbirds had their seventh sellout of the season. Farnham believes the crowds have been unbelievable during the stretch.
“The crowds have been unbelievable on Saturday nights down the stretch here. The ticket office you can give them a ton of credit because the rink has been loud and we have been able to feed that off a lot of that at home. Its been great with a packed house. You don’t like to lay an egg on nights like this. It helps a lot,” Farnham said.
The Thunderbirds will travel to Webster Bank Arena this afternoon to take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Springfield is currently on the outside looking in to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs as they trail five points behind the Sound Tigers and 12 points behind the Charlotte Checkers.
Kinnear wants to head into the game with the same mentality and business-like approach.
“You want to embrace the grind and keep getting better. The guys have done a good job with that and we got to continue to do that,” Kinnear said.