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T-Birds Double Up Wolf Pack

T-Birds Double Up Wolf Pack

HARTFORD, Ct. – Thursday evening saw the Springfield Thunderbirds make the trip to XL Center in Hartford to tangle with the Wolf Pack in a clash of Atlantic Division foes looking to stuff their stockings with two points before the Christmas break. Both teams were looking to gain some ground and make a push towards the playoff positions in the division with a lot of teams slumping in late December, but in this one the visiting Thunderbirds held off a rally by the home team to take a 4-2 decision. Martin Frk scored the eventual winner on the power play and a 31-save effort by Joel Hofer powered Springfield to the win. Louis Domingue made 20 saves in the loss as Springfield pulled even with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for sixth place.

Hartford got the scoring started with the only goal of the first period off the stick of Ty Emberson, who had about as great of an individual effort shorthanded as he stripped the Springfield power play at his own blue line, chipped the puck past a defender, and scored on the backhand against Hofer. It was Emberson’s fourth goal of the season as he matched his total output of a season ago with 11 points.

Springfield responded in an impressive way with Mitchell Hoelscher’s first American Hockey League goal just under three minutes into the second period. Hoelscher picked up a dump-in from Luke Witkowski in the slot and fired a shot that Domingue could not fully corral to even the score at one. The goal was Hoelscher’s first in his 30th game in the AHL and evened the score at one. Springfield took the lead with the fourth goal of the season for Jake Neighbours as he picked up a rebound of a blocked shot and surprised Domingue to put the Thunderbirds in front. The goal continues a hot streak for Neighbours, who has four goals in his last five games after collecting only assists since his assignment to Springfield.

Frk did the damage late in the second period on the power play as he scored his sixth goal of the season. He has now collected a point in each of his last three games, with a goal and two assists in that span.

Hartford cut the lead to a single goal with Gustav Rydahl’s fourth goal of the season early in the final frame, but the Thunderbirds responded with a big game for a few of their top players, including Will Bitten in his first game in Springfield in 20 days. Bitten finished the game with three points in his return to the Thunderbirds, with his last one his best, by setting up Hugh McGing for the game-winner on a nifty drop pass and McGing making no mistake with the snipe.

The win gives Springfield two crucial points to help keep Hartford off their heels by creating a four-point gap in the standings. The win also helps the Thunderbirds remain within two of the Charlotte Checkers, who also won out of town against the Providence Bruins. The tests don’t get any easier for the Thunderbirds, who can move into sixth place with a crucial matchup against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday in their final game before the holiday break. Hartford hosts the Bridgeport Islanders on Friday night in their final game before the break.

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