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Thunderbirds Outlast Admirals on Teddy Bear Toss Night

Thunderbirds Outlast Admirals on Teddy Bear Toss Night

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – It was Teddy Bear Toss Night in Springfield as the Springfield Thunderbirds were looking to get back in the win column against the visiting Milwaukee Admirals on the second straight night that the T-Birds hosted a Western Conference opponent. The fur did fly at MassMutual Center, and the home team sent their fans home happy as Springfield pulled off the upset and blanked the visitors by a 2-0 count behind a 25 save shutout for Joel Hofer and Matthew Highmore’s power play goal that sent the plush items flying and also stood up as the game-winner. Devin Cooley suffered the loss in goal with 30 saves.

It was a big night for Springfield’s penalty kill, which worked through seven penalty kills during the game and limited the high-flying Admirals to just 25 shots. The second-best team in the West had not been blanked at all this season going into Saturday’s matchup, and although Hofer’s numbers have been strong this season, it may be the sign of something building with the Thunderbirds only a day after the Admirals themselves blanked the Hartford Wolf Pack. It’s coincidentally the first time that the Thunderbirds have registered a shutout of their own.

Springfield did enough damage with one power play goal in six attempts with Highmore’s tally, a nifty feed to the back door from Nikita Alexandrov to send the sold-out crowd of 6,793 in a frenzy. It’s just the latest in a series of important points for Highmore this season.

While the two teams don’t typically meet up all that often for games, a casual viewer may not have known that at Saturday’s game as the two teams combined for 52 penalty minutes with a fight, a ten-minute misconduct, and plenty of roughing calls to go around.

The scoring stayed the same all the way up to the third period when rookie Jake Neighbours scored his first American Hockey League goal, stealing the puck from Cooley as the netminder played the puck near the corner and beat the goaltender around the net for his sixth point in 11 games.

The clean sheet is an exclamation point for Hofer’s recent play, which has him ranking at fifth in the AHL in both goals-against average as well as save percentage at 2.29 and 0.927, respectively. The Atlantic Division is home to some of the best goaltenders in the American Hockey League, with seven of the top 11 netminders in the league hailing from teams in the division. Hofer’s strong play netted him first star honors as Springfield looks to get back into the playoff picture, keeping pace with Lehigh Valley as the Phantoms downed the Charlotte Checkers, to draw the teams in fourth through seventh place all closer together around the holidays.

Springfield looks to build on their recent strong stretch, which has seen them collect five of six points in their last three games. The Thunderbirds start a four-game road stretch on Wednesday when they visit the Bridgeport Islanders in another measuring-stick game while the Admirals host the Wolf Pack on Wednesday.

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