Calder Cup Finals: UMass product Matthew Kessel nets OT winner for Springfield Thunderbirds in Game 1

  • UMass defenseman Matthew Kessel scored his first professional goal in overtime during Game 1 of the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals on Sunday in Chicago. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Published: 6/19/2022 7:29:37 PM

Matthew Kessel’s first professional goal won the opening game of the Calder Cup Finals for the Springfield Thunderbirds.

The former UMass defenseman who joined the team after the NCAA Tournament found the net 5 minutes, 9 seconds into overtime against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday in Chicago to complete Springfield’s comeback 5-4 in Game 1 of the AHL’s championship series.

James Neal and Tommy Cross assisted the play. Cross exited the Springfield zone with a stretch pass to Neal, who spun away from two Wolves defenders and dropped a pass to a charging Kessel. He took a short beat then flicked it past Chicago’s Alex Lyon for his first tally in 30 professional games.

It was the Wolves first home loss of the postseason, and Springfield needed to claw back for it.

Chicago led 4-2 after a Stefan Noesen goal 29 seconds into the third period. Cross pulled Springfield within a goal 36 seconds later from Neal and Matthew Peca, then Brady Lyle tied the game with 1:28 remaining. Dakota Joshua and Will Bitten added helpers.

Peca finished with a goal and two assists, while Neal contributed two assists. Lyle and Cross each had a goal and an assist.

The Thunderbirds only converted one of their five power play opportunities.

Game 2 is at 8 p.m. Monday in Chicago ( The best-of-seven series will shift to the MassMutual Center in Springfield for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday, both beginning at 7:05 p.m.

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