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Thunderbirds Outlast Penguins in Special Teams Showcase

Thunderbirds Outlast Penguins in Special Teams Showcase

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – It was a special teams test at Mohegan Sun Arena as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Springfield Thunderbirds met up for the first time this season in a very familiar theme for the visitors. The Thunderbirds outlasted the Penguins despite a heavy disadvantage in shots in the final frame. The script seemed to write itself as former Penguin Anthony Angello scored his first goal of the season against his former club to break a 2-2 deadlock, and Vadim Zherenko made 39 saves on 41 shots to secure the 3-2 win. Filip Lindberg was edged in this one for the Penguins with 21 saves.

If you feel a sense of deja vu from the Thunderbirds’ perspective, it’s because you have indeed been here before. Springfield jumped to a 2-0 lead just before the midway point of the second period, with goals from Will Bitten and Dmitrii Samorukov separated by just over a minute. Bitten’s goal is his sixth of the season, moving him into second on his club in terms of goals scored. Matthew Highmore made the excellent play behind the net to stash the puck to Bitten, who quickly shifted to his forehand to beat the goaltender. Samorukov’s tally came on a nice feed from Martin Frk, who tallied his tenth assist of the season and 11th point in as many games, and the defender beat Lindberg with a wrist shot to double Springfield’s lead going into the final frame.

The third period has become something of a stress test for Thunderbirds fans of late, and Saturday’s tilt was no different.

Springfield gave up a collective seven power play opportunities to Wilkes-Barre, including a double minor for high sticking on Tommy Cross that the Penguins would cash in on. Sam Houde drew the penalty and then cashed in on it with his first goal of the season and second of his AHL career after tallying one last season by beating Zherenko with a shot that caromed off the back boards and right onto his stick. Wilkes-Barre scored in the second half of the double minor only 38 seconds later on a delayed penalty two-man advantage with Ty Smith’s third goal of the season on a shot through a screen to even the score at two.

To Springfield’s credit, they hung in there despite the special team’s struggles. The Thunderbirds were immediately back on the penalty kill after Smith’s goal as Luke Witkowski would sit for a tripping minor that was incurred just before the goal was scored and prevent the game from snowballing any further. Nathan Todd made a hit at his blue line that separated an incoming defender at the point from the puck and sent Jake Neighbours up ice with the puck. Angello kept himself onside over the blue line and buried the perfect pass to get the Thunderbirds back on top.

Wilkes-Barre went two-for-seven on the power play while killing off all six Springfield power plays and outshot Springfield by a 41-24 margin, including a 21-7 edge in the third, but was unable to find a third goal despite the clear edge in those fields. The Thunderbirds once again found a way to win in a game in which they surrendered a two-goal lead and were saved largely by a strong performance by their netminder. It’s a concerning trend, but the win snaps a three-game skid for the Thunderbirds.

Springfield is in action on Wednesday with a rare morning tilt against the Syracuse Crunch in a 10:35 a.m. EST start time, while Wilkes-Barre gets back to action on Friday when they host the Hershey Bears.

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