SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds honored the franchise’s Eastern Conference Championship in their home opener at MassMutual Center as the team began its quest to return to playoff glory against the Bridgeport Islanders to kick off the 2022-23 season on Satruday. On this night, it would be the Islanders’ veterans who had their fingerprints all over a 3-2 win thanks to the eventual game-winning goal from sniper Chris Terry while goaltender Cory Schneider made 20 saves on 22 shots to earn the win over Joel Hofer, who had 28 saves on 31 shots against.
The Islanders came out strong in the opening period, outshooting the Thunderbirds by a 10-4 count and striking twice to jump out to the early lead. Otto Koivula opened the scoring with his first of the season after being one of the last players assigned to Bridgeport from New York, as the productive forward set a new career high in points with 47 during the 2021-22 campaign. Bridgeport would double their lead with Ruslan Iskhakov’s first AHL goal, making a nifty move and sniping a shot through the legs of a defender and past a screened Hofer.
Ruslan Iskhakov’s first AHL goal is a thing of beauty #Isles pic.twitter.com/7k8ctuayQY
— Nicole Shirman (@nicolefshirman) October 15, 2022
Terry’s goal came just 16 seconds into the middle stanza to extend the Islanders’ lead to three goals. Springfield’s core group features plenty of players who were around for their playoff run only a few short months ago, and as resilient of a team as they are, began mounting a comeback largely based on the strong play of regulars like Nikita Alexandrov, who tallied a pair of assists on each of the Thunderbirds’ goals in this game. His first helper came on Matthew Highmore’s first goal of the season, giving the home team some life early in the second period. Springfield’s second goal came off the stick of second-year pro Mathias Laferriere on the power play, their lone tally on six opportunities on the man advantage in this game.
Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, their efforts to tie the game would come up short as Schneider and the Islanders would shut the door on all seven shots fired off the sticks of the Thunderbirds and limit their chances. Missed opportunities on the power play would haunt Springfield in this game, particularly one advantage for the last 1:20 of regulation with Hofer on the bench where the Thunderbirds were only able to generate two shots on goal. The win for Bridgeport offsets a season-opening loss to the Providence Bruins on Friday, and the top AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders will be in action on Friday for a rematch with the Bruins at the renamed Amica Mutual Pavilion, formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Springfield will look to avenge the loss at home when they host the Bruins in a 3:05 showdown as the northeastern Atlantic Division foes get acquainted early in the season.
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