HARTFORD, CT – The Springfield Thunderbirds bounced back from a tough loss Sunday afternoon a win against their I-91 rival the Hartford Wolf Pack last night at the XL Center. Thunderbirds goaltender Mike McKenna set a franchise record by making 32 saves. The Thunderbirds have now won two out of their last three and have got five out of six points during the stretch.
The Thunderbirds would get on the scoreboard first at 14:22 of the first period when Shane Harper and Sena Acolatse worked the puck on a give and go, with Acolatse moving to the slot area on his backhand. From the hashmarks, he tossed a backhander at the feet of goaltender Magnus Hellberg. While the goalie made the first save, he could not control the rebound, which allowed Jared McCann to poke the rebound under Hellberg’s leg.
The Wolf Pack tied the game 36 seconds into the second period when defenseman John Gilmour fired a wrist shot that beat McKenna to tie it at 1-1. For Gilmour, it was his first goal in the last 17 games. The Thunderbirds responded with two goals of their own during the middle frame. Center Stephen MacAulay and Juho Lammikko took a loose puck. Lammikko took a shot with forward Joey Diamond tipping it in to give the Thunderbirds the lead. Later in the period, shortly after killing off a Thunderbirds penalty, left winger Tim Bozon and Dryden Hunt set up a two on one. Bozon took a shot on the left side and received his own rebound to beat Hellberg to make it 3-1.
Hartford pushed its foot down on the accelerator in the third but ran into Springfield road blocks on more than one occasion, with McKenna’s franchise-record 32 stops making the difference on this night. Michael Joly’s first AHL goal gave Hartford some life at 7:04 of the third, but the Pack would come no closer. Acolatse made a pair of diving plays to block last-ditch efforts in the final moments before Mike Sgarbossa hit an empty net from his own zone with just 1:04 left on the clock.
The Thunderbirds will conclude their road trip tomorrow and Saturday with a pair of games against the St. John’s Ice Caps.