SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (1-0-0-0) tallied five unanswered goals to erase an early deficit and take home a 5-1 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (0-1-0-0) before a sellout crowd of 6,793 inside the MassMutual Center on Opening Night Saturday.
The opening 20 minutes provided heart-stopping action on both ends of the ice, with goaltenders Chris Driedger of the Thunderbirds and Jared Coreau of the Sound Tigers trading impressive stops. Driedger's highlight of the period was a breakaway left pad save on 18-year-old Simon Holmstrom.
With the game's first power play chance, Bridgeport opened the scoring when Matt Lorito parked himself at the side of the crease and jammed home a bouncing puck through Driedger at the 9:11 mark of the first to make it 1-0.
Bridgeport's lead would not last two minutes, though, as Blaine Byron turned in a mouth-dropping individual effort to the tie the game, 1-1, at 10:35. With Thomas Hickey defending along the right wing boards in a 1-on-1 battle, Byron spun to his backhand and turned around Hickey before going backhand-to-forehand in beating Coreau to bring the game back even.
Coreau and Driedger held the fort from there as the first period ended with 24 combined shots. Springfield had a strong power play in the back half of the period but failed to squeak one through Coreau's crease.
After a slow start to the second period on both sides, the Thunderbirds showed their rapid-fire capabilities with a pair of tallies in short order. It began with newcomer Dominic Toninato parking himself in front of Coreau's net and calmly deflecting a Tommy Cross flipper past the Bridgeport netminder at 5:52. Before that goal could even be announced, Owen Tippett revved it up into the offensive zone, ringing a wrist shot off the post. Joel Lowry won the race to a loose puck and chipped the backhander over Coreau to make it 3-1 at 6:09. The two goals in 17 seconds were good enough for Springfield to maintain a 3-1 advantage into the final frame.
Bridgeport had a chance to get back in the game when T-Birds captain Paul Thompson was whistled for a five-minute interference major near the midpoint of the final period. Despite the adversity, the Thunderbirds drew a penalty to the Sound Tigers and with the ensuing 4-on-3 advantage, Tippett one-timed a rocket past Coreau to make it 4-1 at 10:50 of the third.
After the Sound Tigers major power play resumed, the Thunderbirds continued to put on the pressure, and Jonathan Ang scored his first goal of the year on a shorthanded breakaway at 12:16 to cap off the night. Ang, Ian McCoshen (two assists), and Tippett (one goal, one assist) each finished with multiple points on the night.
Driedger stopped 24 of 25 shots that came his way to get the season-opening victory in net.
The defending Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers come to the Thunderdome on Sunday for a 3:05 puck drop on Kids Opening Day.
After the two-game set this weekend, the Thunderbirds finish their season-opening three-game home stand with the first 3-2-1 Friday of the season on Oct. 11 against the Rochester Americans, with puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m.