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Springfield Rallies For Game One OT Win

The Thunderbirds gather around Matthew Kessel to celebrate his OT goal. Photo Courtesy: Ross Dettman

Springfield Rallies For Game One OT Win

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Game 1 of this Calder Cup Finals had finally arrived on Sunday afternoon – the first of its kind since 2019. An aura of anticipation surrounded Allstate Arena as the Chicago Wolves and Springfield Thunderbirds readied themselves for battle. Two deep, high-flying rosters lined up for the billing of the year’s main event that was sure not to disappoint.

In net, the rotation of goalies on both sides saw their veterans getting the start in Game 1 – Alex Lyon led the way for the Wolves while Charlie Lindgren got the crease for the Thunderbirds. Springfield had the intent of starting strong on the road as they had all playoff long, while Chicago looked to set the pace at home, where they were undefeated in the postseason leading into Sunday.

However, past records don’t matter with a new series, as the Thunderbirds scored three straight goals in the third period and OT to ride to a 5-4 victory and a 1-0 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.

First Period

After a couple of strong opening shifts from the Thunderbirds, including a power play chance, the Wolves would be the first to strike on their own power play. With James Neal sitting in the box for boarding, Chicago went to work. After nearly a minute of zone time to wear down Springfield’s defenders, Andrew Poturalski threaded the needle to Jack Drury, who wired a shot past Lindgren, off the bar and in to set off the home crowd in celebration and put the Wolves up 1-0.

For the Wolves, however, their bad habits with trips to the box continued to bite them in this one. Richard Panik took his second minor of the period and the Thunderbirds would cash in just four minutes after Drury’s marker. A Calle Rosen shot from the point wasn’t handled by Lyon and Hugh McGing was able to deposit the rebound in without harassment to tie the game 1-1.

With 2:44 to play, Chicago had another power play with a chance to take the lead back at the end of the period. However, despite the zone time and chances it was Springfield going the other way as soon as the penalty expired and Brady Lyle working a give-and-go with Matthew Peca, who beat Lyon with just 35 seconds left in the period for the huge momentum swing for the visitors as they went into intermission up 2-1.

Second Period

Once again in this frame, discipline would be an issue for the Wolves. Three more minor penalties in the second alone, including a hooking call that wiped out what would have been a power play advantage on the very same shift. Despite these rhythm-breaking calls, the Wolves remained stout in their penalty killing.

Just thirty seconds after killing off Poturalski’s minor at 5:39 of the period, Panik made amends for his first period penalty troubles. The veteran forward cut to the middle and roofed a backhand shot past Lindgren to tie the game at 2-2.

17 seconds later the Wolves struck again – this time it was David Gust throwing a shot on net from the half wall that caught Lindgren by surprise to give Chicago the lead at 3-2.

The period ended with another boarding call against Springfield to give the Wolves runover power play time, and as Neal and Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky exchanged words heading off the ice, the stage was set for an incredible third period of hockey in this opening game.

Third Period

The Wolves used that clean sheet of ice and on the power play would cash in for their second man advantage goal of the night. Josh Leivo would rip a shot from the point, and Stefan Noesen would fly by the slot to redirect it past Lindgren and extend the Wolves’ lead to 4-2.

The two-goal lead would last all of 24 seconds. On the other end of the ice, Tommy Cross‘ seeing eye shot made it through traffic and Lyon never picked it up. Cross pulled the Thunderbirds within one again and all of the energy in Allstate Arena after Noesen’s goal was immediately sucked out with that quick response.

For the rest of the third period, the Wolves did something that they have rarely done all season long – play tentatively with the lead. A team that loves to push on the attack when up a goal suddenly didn’t test Lindgren much, and found themselves in their own zone simply trying to clear pucks to kill clock. It almost worked.

Springfield had other plans though. With Lindgren pulled, the equalizer once again came from a seeing-eye shot on a whiffed clear by the Wolves. Lyle’s booming shot tied the game up with just 1:28 to play, and all of the momentum was firmly in Springfield’s hand, especially as Joey Keane lifted the puck over the glass right after the next faceoff to – once again – put the Wolves on the penalty kill.

While Chicago did manage to push it to overtime tied at 4-4, the ice was firmly tilted to the Thunderbirds heading into the extra frame.

Overtime

While failing to convert on the carry over power play, Springfield put heavy chances on Lyon; the best one coming from Neal dragging the puck across the front of the crease that Lyon had to aggressively step up on and fight off. The Wolves couldn’t generate much going the other way, and on the counter Neal would attack the zone and feed the trailing Matthew Kessel. Kessel would beat Lyon for his first professional goal standing up as the game winning goal in Game 1, completing the thrilling comeback to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0 in this series.

Three Stars:

  1. Matthew Kessel – OT goal
  2. Brady Lyle – 1 goal, 1 assist
  3. Matthew Peca – 1 goal, 2 assists

Takeaways:

  • Here’s a character check for the Wolves. They haven’t lost at home all playoff, and now they find themselves dropping home ice advantage to a team that takes incredible advantage of their mental mistakes. They absolutely cannot afford to drop Game 2 and head to a three game set in front of a hostile Springfield home crowd. The quick goals against following their insurance goals were an issue in the last series, as were the next point. Bad habits will make for a tough series to battle back from.
  • Stay out of the box! How many times can it be said? The Wolves pride themselves in their aggression in their game in getting after the puck but some of the penalties taken are just back breakers for this team’s pace and rhythm in the game. Springfield cashed in once on five man advantage opportunities while Chicago went 2/3 on their own PP. They managed to escape Stockton with a plethora of minor penalties – they won’t be able to do the same against Springfield.
  • With such a condensed schedule in the Calder Cup Finals, does Springfield turn to Joel Hofer with a game in their back pocket already on the road? While the net is firmly Lindgren’s, 7 games in 10 days is a tall ask for any single goaltender. Chicago is almost guaranteed to turn to Pyotr Kochetkov in Game 2, but its a coin toss on the other end to see who gets the net. Do you stick with the veteran who got you the big win, or do you give him that extra day of rest?

Looking Ahead:

Game 2 takes place Monday, June 20th at Allstate Arena before the series shifts to Springfield for a three game set.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2022 season!

    Andrew Rinaldi covers the Chicago Wolves for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinWolves.

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