Hard Fought: T-Birds lose in the home opener in another edition of the I-91`rival

Story and Photo By: Matthew Wiernasz

SPRINGFIELD, MA- The Springfield Thunderbirds returned to home ice on Saturday night at the MassMutual Center as they lost to their I-91 rival, the Hartford Wolf Pack in front of a sellout crowd.  Springfield Thunderbirds Head Coach Drew Bannister gave his thoughts.

”  I think overall I was happy with the game.  Obviously, I am not happy with the loss. Considering we’ve had to practices together with the majority of our group. I was pretty happy with the structure. We didn’t give up too much defensively.  I thought our PK (Penalty Kill) was good but at the end of the day they were able to score one and that made the difference in the game.” Thunderbirds Head Coach Drew Bannister Said

The newest addition for the Wolf Pack, Alex Belzile was able to get his team on the board late in the first period as he put the puck into the open net at 19:26 into the opening period to make it 1-0. Adam Edstrom received the lone assist in the goal.

The Wolf Pack were able to outshoot the T-Birds 13-7 after the first period.

The Thunderbirds would respond in the second period. Thunderbirds defenseman Leo Loof took a shot on Wolf Pack goaltender Dylan Garand. Garand was able to make the initial save as the rebound went to Adam Gaudette. Gaudette made the pass to Nathan Walker and Walker was able to put the puck through Garand’s legs to even the score at 1-1 with 18:34 remaining in the second period.

Wolf Pack captain Jonny Brodzinski capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play as his shot went over the arm of Subban to make it 2-1 that would end up being the game-winning goal.

Brodzinski added his second goal of the game with an empty-net goal with 1:17 remaining in regulation to make it 3-1.

Wolf Pack goaltender Dylan Garand made 23 saves in the win for his team.  Malcolm Subban making his Thunderbirds debut made 22 saves in the loss.

News and Notes

Prior to the start of Saturday’s game, Matthew Peca was named the team captain. Peca becomes the fourth team captain in Thunderbirds history.

” He has someone to look up to in Tommy Cross the last couple of years. He’s learned a lot from Tommy. He’s a quiet voice but for himself, he’s a Conn-Smyth pro. Does everything right off the ice and in the gym in practice and games. That’s the type of people were looking for to kind of show our young guys the way to come in and do things day-to-day. He’s great with conversations and getting it across.” Bannister Said

Thunderbirds forwards Nathan Walker, Hugh McGing along with defenseman Matt Kessel and Callie Rosen were named Alternates.

During the week, Thunderbirds forward Nathan Walker, Mackenzie MacEachern, and Callie Rosen were sent down to the Thunderbirds from their NHL affiliate, the St. Louis Blues.

” They’re real good players Obviously for those guys we missed them last year but we were happy they were in the NHL. They were big parts of what we did two years ago and getting into the finals. It’s nice to have them back and they are certainly here to prove they don’t belong here. They want to be in the NHL and I understand that and for all our guys that’s what we are here for to get these guys better and give them an opportunity to play in the NHL.” Bannister Said

Thunderbirds captain Matthew Peca gave his thoughts.

” It’s massive. Anytime you can add leadership experience to a group, especially NHL experience. It makes your team so much better. It makes your team closer. These guys know how to be around a locker game and make sure they’re putting guys in the right direction.” Peca Said

A moment of silence was held for long-time AHL off-ice official Jay Denver. He was a part of Springfield Hockey for five decades. Denver passed away over the summer.

The T-Birds return to action tomorrow afternoon when they host the Providence Bruins here at the MassMutual Center.  Puck drop is at 3:05 p.m.

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