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2022 Calder Cup Playoffs

Springfield Outlasts Wilkes-Barre, Moves On

Springfield Outlasts Wilkes-Barre, Moves On

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – It was a barnburner in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Sunday evening between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Springfield Thunderbirds at Mohegan Sun Arena as the visiting T-Birds clinched the Atlantic Division Semifinals victory with a 7-6 win. Springfield overcame a 4-1 deficit and outlasted Wilkes-Barre in a wild third period where Hugh McGing scored the eventual game-winner. Charlie Lindgren earned the win with 26 saves while Tommy Nappier suffered the loss with 37 saves as both netminders went the difference despite the high scoring.

In the first period, it appeared the pair of days between games benefitted the Penguins in addition to playing before their home crowd for the first time in nearly a week. Wilkes-Barre scored four times in the first period as Jonathan Gruden, Filip Hallander, Sam Poulin, and Nathan Legare scored, while Sam Anas tallied for Springfield. It looked like the Penguins were fully in control after one period, with 13 saves from Nappier making a huge difference and giving the team their biggest lead in the series to this point. However, the Penguins looked to clamp down on the early edge to extend the series for another day.


The second period saw the Thunderbirds flip the script and score three goals of their own to even the score at four each. Will Bitten, Steven Santini, and Dakota Joshua all scored as Springfield fired 19 shots on goal during the middle stanza to just five for Wilkes-Barre. The Thunderbirds continued their strong play in the third when Matthew Peca and MacKenzie MacEachern scored separated by under two and a half minutes to cap a run of five straight goals for the visitors. Both clubs would connect with their power play in a very heavy game for special teams as the Penguins would tally twice on four attempts. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds struck three times in seven opportunities, including a two-man advantage which resulted in Bitten’s goal.


With their backs to the wall in the series and their season on the line, the Penguins did not quit. Poulin scored his second of the game and third of the postseason on the power play to draw to within one and again countered the McGing goal with a tally from the clutch Alex Nylander to keep the Penguins in the game. However, a strong frame from Lindgren was enough to secure the win and send the Thunderbirds to the Atlantic Division Finals with a sweep of the series in three games. Springfield finished the game with 44 shots on goal to Wilkes-Barre’s 32. Lindgren turned aside 13 of 15 in the third period as the Thunderbirds outlasted the clock to win their third straight postseason game and seventh straight win dating back to the regular season in an impressive run of late.


Impressively, the Thunderbirds got goals from seven different players in an impressive showing from their depth as Anas finished with a goal and three assists while six other players finished with multi-point games. Springfield has proven that they are capable of winning games regardless of the situation, and even if their excellent goaltenders give up more than one goal, which makes them a dangerous group going into the next round.

After completing a three-game sweep in the best-of-five division semifinal, Springfield advances to take on the winner of the Charlotte Checkers and Bridgeport Islanders in the next round. Currently, the Checkers lead their division semifinal series, two games to one. The Penguins drop out of postseason play, giving one of the Atlantic’s best teams a solid run for their money. Ultimately, they couldn’t score enough goals to keep pace in the series, allowing 17 goals in three games. Springfield’s offense proved to be as advertised in their first playoff series since taking on the new name and look to make their case as a Calder Cup contender.

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