SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – It hasn’t been the start that the defending Eastern Conference Champion Springfield Thunderbirds envisioned for the 2022-23 season. Coming off of a disappointing loss to the Bridgeport Islanders a day prior that the team narrowly missed out on sending to extra time, the Thunderbirds looked to right the ship against the Providence Bruins as the trio of teams from the northeastern side of the Atlantic Division got their licks at each other early in the new season. Despite 36 shots on goal and outshooting the Bruins in all three periods, the Bruins ultimately walked away with a 4-3 decision to stay perfect in the early going of the season. Joel Hofer suffered the loss with 24 saves on 28 shots while Kyle Keyser earned his first win in his first start with 33 saves.
This game turned out to be one where each team was trying to one-up the other as goals were matched in fairly short order of one other. The Bruins would open the scoring on Georgii Merkulov’s second goal of the season on the power play, but the lead would last just over three minutes as the Thunderbirds responded with a power play goal from Nikita Alexandrov, who continued his hot start with a nifty move to give him three points in the first two games of the season and evened the count at one.
Enter the second period, where the Bruins would once again jump out to the lead just over two minutes in as Josiah Didier got his first of the season in his fourth year in Providence. The defender isn’t known for his goal-scoring ability but is off to a strong start after only tallying three points in 40 games with the team a year ago. Once again, however, the lead for the Bruins was to be even shorter-lived than the first as the Thunderbirds would go on the power play and get a goal from one of their playoff heroes of a year ago in Nathan Todd’s first of the season all in the span of a minute and 23 seconds to bring the game even at two.
Providence would respond by scoring a power play goal of their own as Vinni Lettieri would get on the board with his first goal of the season and third point of the weekend. Lettieri joins the Bruins after spending the last two seasons with the San Diego Gulls, and previously played for division rival Hartford in the first four seasons of his professional career. Once again, though, only three minutes and eight seconds later, Springfield would draw even for a third time as Dylan McLaughlin scored his first goal in a Thunderbirds uniform after parts of four years with the Rockford IceHogs.
The game would ultimately be won off the stick of a rookie, as AHL newcomer Luke Toporowski scored his first goal off a slick feed from Fabian Lysell. Toporowski flew down the left wing and wired a shot past Hofer to give the Bruins a lead that the Thunderbirds could not top this time despite 16 shots on goal in the middle stanza. Lysell had a great night with three assists, capping it off by setting up the eventual winner in this one.
It’s a disappointing outcome for the Thunderbirds to lose two games at home by such close margins, but with some positives to consider in terms of production, it will only be a matter of time until it translates into wins at this level. The Bruins will be off until they host the Islanders on Friday evening, while the Thunderbirds will shoot for their first win of the season on Wednesday in Laval in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals with the Rocket, where one team will earn their first win of the campaign as Laval enters with one regulation loss and an overtime loss in their first two games.
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