Springfield Thunderbirds fall 4-0 to Chicago Wolves in Game 3 of AHL Calder Cup Finals

Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2022 10:41:57 PM
Modified: 6/22/2022 10:41:37 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Despite playing at home in front of a sold-out arena, the Thunderbirds couldn’t solve netminder Pyotr Kochetkov and the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday night.

The Thunderbirds fell 4-0 to the Wolves in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals, dropping them down 2-1 in the series. Springfield will host Game 4 at the MassMutual Center on Friday at 7:05 p.m.

Kochetkov was lights-out in net for the away team, stopping all 36 shots that the Thunderbirds fired at him. At the other end of the ice, Springfield’s Charlie Lindgren allowed three goals on 34 shots; Chicago’s fourth and final goal was an empty-netter from Stefan Noesen.

“As a group, we all have to be better here, and it starts with with our goaltending. The goaltending has been really good for us all playoffs. Our guys have played well. Our backs are up against the wall a little bit in here now and we’re under a little bit of pressure,” Springfield head coach Drew Bannister said. “We’ve usually responded well. I thought at times we were pretty good tonight, I didn’t mind our start. We had opportunities, we’ve got to bear down, but we have to create more too.”

Chicago got on the board first on a power play opportunity with captains Andrew Porturalski and Tommy Cross in the box for roughing along with Dakota Joshua. Richard Panik scored his fifth playoff goal — his third in as many games in this series — with assists from Josh Leivo and Jack Drury.

The Thunderbirds had an opportunity to even the score less than two minutes later when Chicago’s Jesper Sellgren was whistled for high-sticking. Springfield got a couple of good looks on the ensuing power play but couldn’t capitalize, and the Wolves got a shorthanded opportunity that Lindgren managed to fight off.

Though s pecial teams were the story of the night – Springfield failed to convert on all five of their power play opportunities, while Chicago capitalized on two of their four chances – that wasn’t the sole reason that the Thunderbirds struggled against the visitors.

“They probably don’t get enough credit for the way they defend. They’re a good skating team and they defend while using their speed and I think that’s been a little bit of an issue for us,” Bannister said. “Our power play certainly has to be better for us. Obviously it’s not going to win games for us and we don’t expect it to, but we do expect it to chip in here.”

Chicago doubled its lead with 13:35 left in the middle frame, when Ivan Lodnia finished a perfect cross-ice pass from Vasili Ponomarev.

After Lodnia’s goal, the Thunderbirds had two consecutive power play chances to try and even up the score, but were unable to light the lamp. Despite Springfield outshooting Chicago by game’s end, not very many of the shots they got were in high-danger areas, and for the Kochetkov was up to the task to stop those that were.

“Right now we’re not working to get the areas that we need to and sometimes it’s the tough areas that you have to go to. We’re not doing that consistently enough, whether it’s on the power player or five-on-five right now,” Bannister said. “We’ve got to get a lot better at that if we want to make more life more difficult on their goaltender and their defense.”

The dagger was Jalen Chatfield’s goal late in the second period. With just over five minutes remaining in the middle frame, Chatfield scored Chicago’s third goal of the game with assists from Levio and Max Lajoie to make it 3-0 and send the Thunderbirds in a tough spot heading into the second intermission.

“We play the right way when we play with our identity and within our structure. We get a lot of offense from it, and I think this time of year when you defend the right way, when your play away from the puck is extremely detailed, you’ll get some offensive opportunities,” Chicago coach Ryan Warsofsky said. “There’s not a lot ice out there, so you’ve got to work for it, but we feel like we have a really hard-working team that can create ice and create space and and then we can let our skill come out.”

The Thunderbirds opened the third period with 1:34 of power play time, but couldn’t convert. The two teams spent the rest of the contest trading chances at opposite ends of the ice.

Noesen closed the scoring with an empty-net, power-play goal with 3:04 left in the game, as the Thunderbirds were shut out for the first time this season.

Despite the shutout loss, the Thunderbirds have made it through three series prior and have come out on the winning end of all three of them. Now that they’re at the peak of the playoff run, things are going to get more difficult. They’re hoping to get a different result for Springfield in Game 4 on Friday.

“I think it’s certainly a privilege to be able to play in the American Hockey League championship for the Calder Cup, whether it’s here or anywhere else, but obviously for this town, it’s a big deal,” Bannister said. “We’re very lucky to be able to support this this organization that we have here and the city that we’re playing for right now.”

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