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Charlotte Checkers

Thunderbirds Roll Checkers in Series Opener

Thunderbirds Roll Checkers in Series Opener

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds have the first two games of their second-round playoff series with the Charlotte Checkers at home, and on a hot day at MassMutual Center, they made a statement with a 6-0 drubbing of the top-seeded team in the Atlantic Division.

Springfield scored three times in just over three and a half minutes in the third period to add to a 2-0 lead, and Joel Hofer made 35 saves for a shutout and the first star. Sam Anas and Matthew Peca each had three points in the win as the Thunderbirds took a 1-0 series lead.

Hofer stepped up for the Thunderbirds in a big way as Springfield was dealt a blow in the crease with the recall of starter Charlie Lindgren by the St. Louis Blues following the loss of Jordan Binnington to injury. Hofer has been tested this season and the playoffs, having started in Game 2 of the Wilkes-Barre series where he scored a goal on the empty net. Springfield came into play as the underdog in the series on special teams based on the regular season statistics but won the battle in a major way as Nathan Todd would open the scoring with his first career playoff goal on a nifty deflection in the first period that eventually stood up as the game-winner.

A big moment in the game happened in the second period. On the power play late in the second, a penalty shot would be awarded to the Thunderbirds as the Checkers covered the puck in the crease on a mad scramble in front of Joey Daccord. Anas would be the shooter and he would not miss the big opportunity, beating a down-and-out Daccord to double the Springfield lead. Hofer played well with a higher shot volume, in particular with big saves on a four-minute double-minor penalty from the conclusion of the first and into the majority of the second. His strong play didn’t give the Checkers any hope as the score stayed close going into the final frame.

Anas continued his great play in the third as part of a massive scoring run by the Thunderbirds, who tallied four times in the final stanza and finished the game with six goals on 28 shots on goal. Anas would tally his second of the game, getting a pass from Peca and sniping one over the goaltender’s shoulder to make it three. The three-point game continues a great run for Anas, who now has four goals and six assists in just four playoff games this season. Mackenize MacEachern would follow that goal up with his third of the playoffs, wrapping the puck around and squeaking over the goal line with Daccord deep in the crease. The goal stood despite a lengthy review, and Daccord would be swapped with Chris Gibson, but it would do little to stem the tide. Klim Kostin would get in on the act with his second of the playoffs and Tyler Tucker would add one more for good measure as the Thunderbirds tilted the ice despite being outshot officially for most of the three frames.

Springfield flipped the script on special teams and continued to stay perfect on the penalty kill at home going five-for-five. Charlotte’s penalty kill was among the best on the road in the regular season but was dented twice in this game, which proved to be the difference in addition to another strong third period. Charlotte will look to burn the tape on this game and get back to playing the style of hockey that they’re capable of, and this game will be a learning experience for them. They’ll have a break before getting back to Game 2 on Wednesday evening before the series shifts to Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte for Game 3.

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