Thunderbirds rally falls short again against Providence

Story By: Ryan Thomas and Matthew Wiernasz

Photo Courtesy of the Springfield Thunderbirds

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Thunderbirds (0-2-0-0) showed promise against Bruins (2-0-0-0) in a 4-3 loss, but offensive woes and miscues stopped Springfield from achieving the elusive first win of the 2022 season after a thrilling
divisional matchup.

“The effort was their, compared to last night when we didn’t do enough with the puck, and get a forecheck, and build in the offensive zone” said Springfield Thunderbirds Head Coach Drew Bannister.

Bannister’s comments do mirror the T-Birds start, but the first half of the opening frame Providence felt a tad bit more cohesive. Providence came off the bench looking energized, whereas the Thunderbirds matched the pace of play till the
momentum started to shift when Chris Wagner fired on an empty net with the intent of giving the Bruins the pivotal lead. However, the Thunderbirds quickly swarmed the net and the broken miscues to a simple faceoff. Afterward
stayed, Hofer stayed glued to his crease and stood firm.

“I didn’t like our start again, because for whatever reason we felt like a little sleepy with starting the games and we need to execute better, but after the first 8-10 minutes of the first. I thought we started to play a little bit better.” Bannister Continued

Providence Bruins Head Coach Ryan Mougenel gave his thoughts about his team’s win.

” I really like our team.  We have a good blend of solid veterans that kind of play the right way all the time. We’ve got some youth that are finding their way in pro hockey. You saw Lysell’s skill, he’s very high-end. It’s just been a good blend so far.” Mougenel Said

Bruins forward Vinni Lettieri also gave his thoughts about his team on Sunday afternoon.

” It was good. It was kind of a grind. Just going back and forth. Obviously, we prevailed. We had a great team effort. Just stay resilient.” Lettieri Said

Halfway through the opening period, momentum shifted in Providence’s favor when Anthony Angello was called for a trip that manifested into a Bruins Power Play. The man advantage would be positive for the visitors because of a
Georgii Merkulov tip set up by Fabian Lysell. Vinni Lettieri would contribute to the opening goal breaking the long-winded tie.

One major woe was that the Thunderbirds are still searching to resolve is the question of the PK, something that Coach Bannister touched upon as well.

“You know you will give up goals in the game, but our PK has to be much better, there were a couple of individual mistakes, that our guys need to clean up and think the fourth goal was a bad read, and those things will happen early on in the season. And we need to improve on those early in the season.”

For a time, Springfield was left looking to generate some much-needed offense, but it’s clear the chemistry is taking shape, most noticeably on the first line comprised of Will Bitten, Matthew Highmore, and Nitkita Alexandrov.

Providence’s Vinni Lettieri would slip up with a trip of his own, which became the shot of adrenaline the T-Birds were searching for. Nikita Alexandrov delivered with a backhand wrister courtesy of Matthew Highmore, who showed his
patent veteran leadership while expressing confidence. In the case of Alexandrov, his performance was impressive to admit. It makes you wonder if the team will feed off his energy and build on the positives or if Alexandrov is looking to
fill a mentor role as this young season gradually opens.

Bannister did touch upon Nitkita’s play, but did reveal that his goal was a little bit lucky.

“I think we were a little bit lucky on that powerplay goal, but we got rewarded by waiting on the puck after a broken play.”

Glimpses of promise could be felt for the Thunderbirds, with an excellent opportunity from Nathan Todd and a sensational glove save by Hofer when The Bruins were in the triangle formation during a Power Play as the first 20 drew to a close as some highlights. The score stands tied at one a piece, but it’s clear Springfield feels like a different team, compared to last night with 11 shots on Kyle Keyser’s net, and Joel Hofer was met with a similar tone from Providence, getting nine shots on the young goalie.

The middle frame was a full-on scoring clinic that featured multiple lead changes and equal chances. Providence broke the 1-1 tie courtesy of a Marc McLaughlin wrister, which Josiah Didier tipped in mere minutes into the middle frame. Springfield then answered on a simple powerplay that was executed well from the point, with Brady Lyle firing off a one-timer that allowed Nathan Todd to get his first goal of the season.

Only for another lead change to occur with Vinni Lettieri igniting a one-timer that blanked Hofer around the 10-minute mark of the second, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead. Lettieri makes the return to the Atlantic Division playing for the Providence Bruins after playing the last two seasons for the San Diego Gulls. He also played for the Hartford Wolf Pack.

” In the last couple of years, we’ve been scoring by committee. We wanted to find someone that was one a high-quality person. That’s Vinni (Lettieri) and on the other side of it, he’s pretty lights out from the bottom of the circles in this league. He’s a proven goal scorer. For me, I think the bigger picture for Vinni is, he’s a guy that can go and contribute offensively for the Boston Bruins, and ultimately we’re here to help him get him there. We’re lucky to have him while we have him. It’s fun to watch him play.” Mougenel Said

That changed courtesy of a Dylan McLaughlin wrister from
the left dot circle, with Todd and Tyler Tucker assisting to make the play come together, bringing this matchup to a 3-3 tie.

After the game, McLaughlin touched upon being a newcomer to this team, along with adding that the city of Springfield and it’s the community is supportive of the organization.

“It’s been awesome, especially walking from the hotel to the rink, and seeing the fans in the street. Obviously, we wanted to get a win this weekend, but we have a lot to look forward to” said Dylan Mclaughlin.

Providence would regain the lead when Luke Toporowski waited patiently in the left center slot before firing off a wrister that beat Hofer’s glove side. Springfield trailed 4-3, heading into the third.

As the third opened the narrative and theme was the play between Kyle Keyser, and the forecheck from the Bruins, but for a time Springfield did attempt to hang with their rival, but in the end, Providence would end their weekend with
a victory inside the MassMutual Center.

Another veteran playing for the Providence Bruins this season is Chris Wagner.  Both Mougenel and Lettieri gave their thoughts about Wagner.

” He’s a great resource for me as a coach. Just like the players, we’re finding our way too. You look down the bench and you got Chris Wagner that does everything right. He just sets the example of how he plays. The way he comes to the rink. His standard of play hasn’t changed. He came down here with the right attitude. I don’t think were going to have him too long either if he keeps playing the way he’s playing.” Mougenel Said

” He’s a great presence in the locker room. He’s a great role model for everyone and just the way he carries himself from day to day whether it’s up with the Bruins or down here. It’s the same and it’s what you want from a leader and what you want from just a human being’s standpoint just to help the younger guys. All the younger guys are looking up to him.

The Thunderbirds now hit the road with a 7:05 puck set for tonight against the Laval Rocket in a rematch of last season’s AHL Eastern Conference Finals. The Thunderbirds will continue their Canadian Road Trip heading into the weekend as they will take on the Belleville Senators on Friday and Saturday.

The Thunderbirds will return to the Thunderdome at the MassMutual Center on Friday, October 28 when the Bridgeport Islanders make a return for their second appearance of the season.  The puck drop will be at 7:05 p.m.

Leave a Reply