SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Goaltender Joel Hofer entered his first game of Calder Cup Playoff action with the tall task of matching the incredible play of Charlie Lindgren, who made 50 saves on 51 shots the day prior in Game 1 to lift the Springfield Thunderbirds to a 1-0 series lead. Hofer made 34 saves on 36 shots for the game, earning a win, but did something else that was incredible: scoring a goal on the empty net. With Tommy Nappier on the bench with under four minutes to play in the third, Hofer lined up a shot with his back against the boards behind his own net and hit the empty net to put an exclamation point on a Game 2 win for the Thunderbirds over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
“If that doesn’t get you fired up, you don’t have a pulse! If that doesn’t get you out of your seat, there’s nothing more I can show you!” Joel Hofer fires from against the boards behind the net for a goalie goal! #WBSvsSPR @FieldPassHockey pic.twitter.com/iFEamBqFXQ
— Corey Swartz (@cswa11) May 13, 2022
The goalie goal put the game away as the first of two empty net goals. MacKenzie MacEachern’s tally late in the second stood up as the eventual game-winner, and a third period tally from Nikita Alexandrov put some distance between the teams after another very evenly played game between two very similar teams as the Thunderbirds head to Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre for Game 3 with the Penguins and a chance to punch their ticket to the Atlantic Division Final. The game saw the two teams each put 36 shots on goal and once again saw the Thunderbirds find a way to win a close contest. The third game of the series is set for Sunday evening.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton entered the evening having played five games in seven days during the postseason but came out strong on Thursday, erasing an early Springfield lead and getting a lead of their own as Will Reilly scored his second goal of the postseason and Pierre-Olivier Joseph scored his first to turn the game on its head. Springfield’s veteran leadership helped the home team stay focused, getting a crucial goal from long time defender Tommy Cross to even the score at two and quickly turning it into a lead with goals separated by only 42 seconds as MacEachern would tally the eventual winner. Alexandrov’s goal was a result of good work along the boards and then heading to the front of the net, where he was rewarded with the puck landing on his tape for a goal.
— Corey Swartz (@cswa11) May 13, 2022
Hofer’s goal came shortly after Nappier made it to the bench, stepping out of his net to collect a dump-in and finding himself with plenty of time to fling the puck over the heads of everyone, across the two blue lines and into the net. Hofer led his teammates down the high-five line on the Thunderbirds bench in a memorable moment in these Calder Cup Playoffs alongside an incredible call from the Thunderbirds’ play-by-play commentator Ryan Smith. Springfield’s Luke Witkowski scored another empty net goal to set the final score at 6-2 as he capped off an impressive night with a goal and an assist.
Both teams now get a couple of days to rest, something the Penguins in particular will appreciate after playing so much hockey over the last week. To the Penguins’ credit, they’ve looked strong but have understandably had a hard time sustaining the rested Thunderbirds. With a few days of rest and playing in front of their home crowd, the series is far from over as the last team standing from Pennsylvania will look to get back into the series on Sunday evening.
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