Hartford Wolf Pack 6, Springfield Thunderbirds 5 (OT)
Hartford, CT, December 30, 2018 – John Gilmour scored his second goal of the game 32 seconds into overtime Sunday at the XL Center, lifting the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 6-5 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds.
The OT strike finished a wild game that saw both teams come from behind multiple times.
Gilmour added an assist for a three-point effort, and Gabriel Fontaine scored twice for the Wolf Pack. Peter Holland and Ville Meskanen had a goal and two assists apiece. Joel Lowry and Anthony Greco both had a goal and an assist for Springfield, and Dryden Hunt had two assists.
On the first shift of overtime, the Thunderbirds’ Matt Mangene made a slick move away from Meskanen but then lost the puck, allowing Meskanen to lob it to center ice and set Gilmour up with a clean breakaway. He faked a forehand shot and then slipped a backhander through the legs of Springfield goaltender Samuel Montembeault (24 saves).
“I was alone, so didn’t want to over-think it too much,” Gilmour said. “And I had some speed on him, so I went with my move and luckily it worked.”
The Wolf Pack came back from 1-0, 2-1 and 4-3 deficits, and were unable to hold leads of 3-2 and 5-4.
“Games like this, when they go back and forth, you have to make sure that you’re on the right side of the momentum swings,” Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge said. “And I thought that for the majority of the game, we did a good job of that.”
The two teams combined for five goals in a high-scoring first period, with the Wolf Pack coming out of the frame with a 3-2 lead.
It was the Thunderbirds who grabbed the first two advantages of the game, though, starting with a goal at 6:12 by Lowry. He redirected a shot from the left point by Ian McCoshen, and the puck went off of Wolf Pack goaltender Marek Mazanec (29 saves) and into the net.
The Wolf Pack answered that goal only 1:40 later, with their first of two power-play tallies in the period. With Josh Brown in the penalty box for high-sticking, Gilmour and Holland worked a give-and-go on the left side, and Gilmour blasted a 35-footer past the catching glove of Montembeault.
Greco put Springfield back on top at 16:08, with his team-best 15th goal of the season. Ryan Horvat flipped the puck high in the air and into the Wolf Pack zone, and Greco managed to outrace Hartford defenseman Brandon Crawley to it. Greco then fired the puck past Mazanec on the stick side, just before Crawley spilled him into Mazanec.
The Wolf Pack would recover, though, with a pair of goals in the last 1:26 of the period, to take the lead.
Fontaine evened the score at 18:34, taking a pass from Chris Bigras high in the slot and sending a bid toward the net that bounced and eluded Montembeault.
Then, with 44.2 seconds left in the frame and Mangene off for slashing, Meskanen connected to put the Wolf Pack up 3-2. A Holland feed set up Meskanen in the slot, and he buried his own rebound, after Montembeault knocked his first shot down and it came right back to Meskanen on his forehand.
“It was a good read on where the puck is going and finding a little bit of open ice,” McCambridge said, “and [Meskanen] is one of those players that is smart with his anticipation and awareness on where the puck is going, what the next play is. That was a good play.”
The Thunderbirds dominated much of the second period, however, and put up a pair of power-play goals of their own.
On a man advantage that carried over from the first period, Blaine Byron made it 3-3 at 1:32 of the middle frame. Mazanec stopped a Hunt drive from the left side, but the rebound went right to the front of the net, and Byron flicked it in.
Sebastian Repo then put Springfield ahead at 13:53, with Fontaine off for goaltender interference. Again Hunt had the initial shot, and Repo attacked the front of the net. Wolf Pack defenseman Libor Hajek pushed him into Mazanec, and the puck went off of Repo and slid just over the goal line.
Holland, who returned to the Wolf Pack lineup after serving a two-game AHL suspension, answered that goal with 3:37 left in the period, scoring his tenth of the season. Matt Beleskey played the puck to Meskanen at the right side of the slot, and he let go a shot that Montembeault denied. Meskanen grabbed the rebound, though, and pushed it into the goal crease, setting up Holland to knock it home.
“We missed him for the two games, he’s playing some really good hockey for us,” McCambridge said of Holland. “You can’t replace players like Peter, he’s one of the top centermen in the American Hockey League, if not the top centerman in the AHL, and obviously a real solid depth player for the National Hockey League. It’s nice to have number 22 on the bench again.”
Fontaine scored his second of the game 4:57 into the third period, putting the Wolf Pack up 5-4. Crawley fired from the right point, and the puck ended up on Fontaine’s stick. He was knocked down to Montembeault’s left, but still swept the puck toward the net, with Dawson Leedahl screening, and it went off of Montembeault and in.
“What [Fontaine] does well, is he’s quick to loose pucks, he’s a very good skater, and he has that second gear,” McCambridge said. “When he has possession he can pull away from players, and that’s rare to have. Gabby is making sure he’s playing the game the right way, and he’s being rewarded with more minutes, and it’s a credit to him to make the most of these opportunities.”
That lead lasted only 1:22, as Matt Marcinew lifted the Thunderbirds back into a tie at 7:19, with his first career AHL goal. He headed hard towards the net and jammed the rebound of a Lowry shot past Mazanec.
That set up the second straight overtime for both teams, and both had suffered OT losses the previous night, the Wolf Pack falling at home, 3-2, to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Gilmour’s goal, though, gave the Wolf Pack their third overtime win of the season, and lifted Hartford back to the .500 mark, at 15-15-2-2.
“We’re really pulling together now as a group,” Holland said, “where even if we get behind a goal or two, we’re not getting after each other like we were earlier in the year.”
The Wolf Pack and Thunderbirds tangle again this Friday night, January 4 at the XL Center, with faceoff at 7:15 PM. It being a Friday night, that game features $1 hot dogs, and $2 beers and fountain sodas, through the start of the second period, presented by Nomads Adventure Quest.
Tickets for all 2018-19 Wolf Pack home games are on sale now at the Agera Energy Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499. Tickets purchased in advance for kids 12 or younger start at just $13 each, and all tickets will have a $3 day-of-game increase.
Season ticket information for the Wolf Pack’s 2018-19 AHL season can be found on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com. To speak with a representative about all of the Wolf Pack’s many attractive ticketing options, call (855) 762-6451, or click here to request more info.
Springfield Thunderbirds 5 at Hartford Wolf Pack 6 (OT)
Sunday, December 30, 2018 – XL Center
Springfield 2 2 1 0 – 5
Hartford 3 1 1 1 – 6
1st Period-1, Springfield, Lowry 7 (McCoshen, Horton), 6:12. 2, Hartford, Gilmour 8 (Holland, Lettieri), 7:52 (PP). 3, Springfield, Greco 15 (Horvat, MacDonald), 16:08. 4, Hartford, Fontaine 4 (Bigras, O’Gara), 18:34. 5, Hartford, Meskanen 8 (Holland, Gilmour), 19:15 (PP). Penalties-J. Brown Spr (high-sticking), 6:40; Mangene Spr (slashing), 18:52; J. Brown Spr (misconduct – continuing altercation), 19:38; Stillman Spr (roughing), 19:38; Lindgren Hfd (misconduct – continuing altercation), 19:38; O’Gara Hfd (roughing, roughing), 19:38.
2nd Period-6, Springfield, Byron 9 (Hunt, Mangene), 1:32 (PP). 7, Springfield, Repo 5 (Hunt, Schemitsch), 13:53 (PP). 8, Hartford, Holland 10 (Meskanen, Beleskey), 16:23. Penalties-Crawley Hfd (interference), 7:10; Fontaine Hfd (goaltender interference), 12:23; McCoshen Spr (slashing), 18:17.
3rd Period-9, Hartford, Fontaine 5 (Crawley, Butler), 4:57. 10, Springfield, Marcinew 1 (Lowry, Greco), 7:19. Penalties-Andersson Hfd (holding), 1:10; St. Amant Hfd (high-sticking), 9:06; Mangene Spr (slashing), 16:09.
OT Period-11, Hartford, Gilmour 9 (Meskanen), 0:32. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Springfield 9-16-8-1-34. Hartford 11-13-5-1-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 2 / 5; Hartford 2 / 4.
Goalies-Springfield, Montembeault 11-6-4 (30 shots-24 saves). Hartford, Mazanec 6-5-2 (34 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Peter MacDougall (45), Jeremy Tufts (78).
Linesmen-Nick Briganti (58), Glen Cooke (6).