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Griffins Outlast T-Birds in OT

Griffins Outlast T-Birds in OT

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – It was a tightly contested game in a rare matchup between the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Springfield Thunderbirds at MassMutual Center. The “Battle of the Birds” went beyond regulation and Jared McIsaac scored in the extra session to lift the visiting Griffins to a 2-1 decision. Springfield earned a valuable point, but on a night when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, their direct opponents in the standings, earned two big points, the Thunderbirds still find themselves trailing in the battle for the sixth and final playoff spot. Joel Hofer made 31 saves in a strong performance in the loss while Magnus Hellberg earned the win for the Griffins with 21 saves.

The game started out in Springfield’s favor as the Thunderbirds struck just over two and a half minutes into the game with Nikita Alexandrov’s seventh goal of the season. Alexandrov took a nifty feed from Brady Lyle and beat the outstretched Hellberg on a crafty play from start to finish, giving the second year forward his third goal in his last three games and four points in as many games in that span.

The Griffins pressed hard in this one, tallying 26 shots on goal in the first two periods, but they’d have to wait until late in the third period to get on the board.

Alex Chiasson would find the equalizer with just over three minutes left in regulation with his first goal of the season. Chiasson, suiting up for just his second American Hockey League contest with the Griffins in his first stint in the league since the 2012-13 season, is a big addition to the club as the former Stanley Cup winner with the Washington Capitals in 2018. He brings a lot of veteran experience to the club, and it has paid off on the score sheet with three points since joining the Griffins.

With a point secured for both teams, Grand Rapids wasted little time finding the winner as McIsaac took the puck down the left-wing side and beat Hofer over the shoulder to end the game.

It’s not the desired outcome for the Thunderbirds, who pick up another point but failed to take control of the game at any point. Much like their National Hockey League affiliate, the St. Louis Blues, the Thunderbirds’ struggles have come as a result of not stringing together a complete, sixty-minute effort, and any opponent can take advantage of that kind of play. Springfield has the talent, even after last season’s squad was largely dismantled, and when the Blues get healthy, their fortunes will improve.

For now, Springfield will set their sights on another Western Conference foe, the Milwaukee Admirals, who pay the Thunderbirds a visit on Saturday night, while the Griffins continue their Eastern Conference tour with a trip to Hartford to see the Wolf Pack.

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