SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds and the Bridgeport Islanders filled the nets on Friday night at MassMutual Center, with each team nearing 40 shots on goal, but it would take extra time before a winner would be declared. That tally would belong to Springfield’s Martin Frk, as the forward would find his first in a Thunderbirds uniform to give his team the extra point in a 7-6 final score. Jakub Skarek would take the loss with 31 saves while Joel Hofer would end the day with 34 saves.
The two teams would duel and trade leads in this game, which began with a strong start for Springfield, with big nights from two of the team’s biggest names. Nikita Alexandrov got the party started with his second goal of the season on the power play with just over five minutes remaining in the opening period, followed by a snipe from Nathan Todd for his fifth of the season. Todd would collect a helper on Alexandrov’s goal, giving him a multi-point game after 20 minutes of action and giving his team a 2-0 lead.
Bridgeport would break through with Ruslan Iskhakov’s third goal of the season to draw his team within one, but it wouldn’t last long as the Thunderbirds would respond with Alexandrov’s second goal of the night just 15 seconds later to reestablish the two-goal lead.
If it seemed like Springfield had all the momentum to take the game home at that point, it all got thrown out the window when Simon Holmstrom knocked down a breakout pass, made a spin to collect the puck on his backhand, and then beat Hofer to cut the lead back to one. Holmstrom’s goal came just as teammate Iskhakov’s high-sticking penalty was set to expire. Bridgeport would kill the remaining second of the penalty and even the score at three with Grant Hutton’s first goal of the year.
Before the second period was in the books, Springfield would take the lead back when Alexandrov completed the hat trick and a four-point night overall to make it 4-3 Thunderbirds going into intermission. It’s only Alexandrov’s second multi-goal game in his AHL career and first hat trick in the league, and it went a long way towards getting the Thunderbirds two points.
Springfield would once again extend their lead to two goals with Todd’s second goal of the game to once again make a comeback a tall order for the Islanders. However, if the Islanders were counted out at any point before, they certainly weren’t out of this game. Bridgeport rattled off three straight goals in less than ten minutes not only to even the score, but take the lead, starting with William Dufour’s third goal of the season.
Erik Brown would get on the board with his first of the season, and a penalty to Anthony Angello moments after the goal would lead to a power play strike 11 seconds later off the stick of Andy Andreoff to put the Islanders in the driver’s seat with a 6-5 lead.
With about three minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, the hope on everyone’s minds at MassMutual Center was that the game wasn’t quite out of drama. Their faith would be rewarded as the Islanders’ lone lead of the game lasted only a minute and 21 seconds before Hugh McGing would get in on the action with his second of the season to even the score at six and send the game to overtime.
The way both teams had filled the net through sixty minutes, a shootout seemed unlikely on this night and the overtime session lasted just over a minute before Frk would bury the winner on a slap shot reminiscent of the one that won him the league’s hardest shot award at the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic, giving the T-Birds the extra point.
Frk finished the game with a goal and three assists and was named the first star over Alexandrov’s four points, including the hat trick, in a rare instance of the feat not being enough for a first star honor. It was just that kind of night in Springfield, as fans left getting more than their money’s worth in this one plus a win for the home team.
Bridgeport’s highest point total came from defenseman Dennis Cholowski, who tallied three assists for his team in defeat. Springfield got a similar three assist night from captain Tommy Cross as defenders factored in big on the high scoring night.
The win is Springfield’s third in a row, recovering nicely from three consecutive losses. Bridgeport travels to Allentown to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, while Springfield plays host to the Providence Bruins on Saturday night.
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