SPRINGFIELD, MA – Paul Thompson and Dryden Hunt scored two goals each as the Springfield Thunderbirds defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 5-3 last night at the MassMutual Center. It’s the first time in franchise history the Thunderbirds have won four in a row.
“To be honest I am not worried about the four in a row. It’s how we played tonight. It’s a 60 minute game and we handled the ups and downs. We answered. I had four lines going especially in the second and third,” Thunderbirds Head Coach Geordie Kinnear said.
Former Springfield Falcon Greg Carey got the Phantoms on the board first with his 16th power play goal of the year and fifth against the Thunderbirds with a cross-crease pass from Corban Knight at 13:05 in the first period.
The second period featured a lot of scoring between both teams. Kyle Rau scored off of a Dylan Mcllrath rebound to tie the game at 1-1. Paul Thompson gave the Thunderbirds their first lead of the evening 56 seconds later taking a cross-ice pass from Denis Malgin and beating Phantoms goaltender Anthony Stolarz to go up 2-1. Phantoms Head Coach Scott Gordon called a timeout to settle the game down.
The Phantoms responded quickly. Radel Fazleev tied the game at 2-2 and after the goal, the Phantoms would go back on the power play. Chris Conner was in the slot area and took a feed from Fazleev. Conner beat Thunderbirds goaltender Reto Berra stick side 15 seconds later to go up 3-2.
Dryden Hunt responded for the Thunderbirds and ended his long scoring drought that goes back to December 9th with his first of two goals of the evening to tie the game at 3-3 late in the second period. Thompson scored his second goal of the night and the game-winning goal late in the second period beating Stolarz with a wrist shot to go up 4-3 after 40 minutes of play.
The Phantoms would receive a couple of power play opportunities in the third period but could not respond. Hunt would add an empty net goal to give the Thunderbirds insurance and the 5-3 victory.
“It’s definitely been a while since I’ve put the puck in the back of the net. The team is doing so well right now,” Hunt said.
It is the first time in franchise history for the Thunderbirds that they have won four games in a row and scored four goals in the second period. During the four-game winning streak for the Thunderbirds, they beat two of the strongest teams in the Atlantic Division winning against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last weekend and the Phantoms last night.
“To get back on a roll, It’s huge. Those teams we beat aren’t at the bottom of the standings. It’s very nice to beat teams like that for sure,” Hunt said.
Shane Harper feels it was a big win for his team especially coming off from three games last weekend. They are trying to carry it over.
“Kind of remembering when we played these guys last time, We were up on them in the third, They came back late. Kind of stole the game. Kind of owed them a little bit. You have to respect them. They’re a highly skilled team. We played really well tonight, To come out on top, we are a confident group right now,” Harper said.
Harper feels from the drop of the puck that the game had a high tempo with hard checking.
In the push for the American Hockey League Calder Cup Playoffs, the Thunderbirds did gain some ground but still have a long road ahead. They are 17 points out of the fourth and final playoff spot behind the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Thunderbirds are still thinking about the playoffs. Harper knows that they have a tall mountain to climb.
“Honestly I think maybe a few weeks before we started on this little win streak we were maybe thinking about it too much. Now maybe we’re just trying to worry about ourselves. Just take it game by game and that’s what we have been doing over the past week and a half. We’re just going to try and keep doing that, Maybe stay off looking at the leaderboard for a little bit,” Harper said.
The Thunderbirds will be back in action Saturday night as they take on their I-91 rival, the Hartford Wolf Pack for the third weekend in a row. The puck drops at the MassMutual Center at 7:05 P.M.