I don’t want to blame a loss on officiating. But the tides turned for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins when referee Conor O’Donnell made this call on Anthony Angello.
The Thunderbirds would score on the ensuing power play to tie the game at two at the time.
Seems like a harmless thing, but it wasn’t. The referees were letting everything go to that point. Everything. So yes, the Penguins were a bit shell shocked at the call and the goal.
:42 later, the Thunderbirds would score again and never looked back.
Oh, and starting goaltender for Springfield Joel Hofer scored a goal.
The Penguins are down 2-0 in the series now after losing 6-2 Thursday. The Hofer empty net goal and another makes the score line bigger than it really should be.
Series shifts back to Wilkes-Barre where the Penguins are 16-3 in 2022. But I said in my series snap on Wednesday that in order to beat the Thunderbirds in the series you would have to beat them in Springfield. The Penguins have yet to do that.
Anyway, here’s your story…
Here’s how they lined up:
Lineup Notes: Radim Zohorna was recalled to Pittsburgh earlier in the day. Sam Houde went in for him, Jamie Devane came out and Nathan Legare went in for him. The Thunderbirds somewhat surprisingly went with Joel Hofer over Charlie Lindgren, but they want a long playoff run and don’t want to steam out their ace goaltender. Joel Hofer as we all know isn’t a pushover.
First Period: Even period at even strength, Thunderbirds score on their second power play of the period when Matthew Peca scored a backdoor goal which gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead.
They were trying that all period and the dummy backdoor to Neal worked. Peca was unmarked and didn’t miss.
Shots were an even 10 a side heading into the…
Second Period: Tale of two periods. The Penguins dominated the Thunderbirds with a barrage of shots on Joel Hofer and collected two goals to put them up ahead 2-1.
Traffic in front of Hofer. Take his eyes away. The Penguins were outshooting the Thunderbirds 12-1 in the period.
The officials (Casey Terreri and Conor O’Donnell) let everything go. Jonathan Gruden was high sticked, no call. There was a Thunderbird tripped right in front of one of those referees and no call. Guys were poked, tugged and slammed into the boards and they let it all go.
They call this a penalty? (Positing it again because I still can’t believe it)
Tommy Cross wastes no time in tying the game at two with a blast from the point.
(no GIF here)
And then as they were announcing that goal, Steven Santini hits Mackenzie MacEachern with a bullet point home run pass that is caught right at the blue line. MacEachern skates in and beats Tommy Nappier with a perfect wrist shot to give the Thunderbirds a 3-2 lead.
Springfield would outshoot Wilkes-Barre / Scranton 2-0 in this period. The Penguins were on tilt and rightfully so. They get called for a preseason cross checking penalty and see their lead evaporate and are chasing the lead again.
Third Period: Penguins get two quick power plays. That killed all of their momentum. They were great and have been great at five on five but have been a mess on special teams. They also gave up two short handed bids on a power play.
Nikita Alexandrov picks up a rebound and scores to make it a two goal lead and you got the sense it was all she wrote.
It was for the Penguins, but the excitement had yet to meet its crescendo for the Thunderbirds. With Tommy Nappier pulled for an extra attacker, Joel Hofer does this.
Luke Witkowski scores an empty net goal killing a penalty as a matter of happenstance. He banks a puck off the wall and it goes into the empty net to make it 6-2.
Three Stars: 3) Mackenzie MacEachern (goal) 2) Matthew Peca (goal, assist) 1) Joel Hofer (34 saves, goal)
The Good: The Penguins are the better team five on five in my opinion.
The Bad: The Penguins are 0/7 on the power play in the series and Springfield is 3/6.
Turning Point: That terrible call on Anthony Angello.
Talk to you after Game 3 Sunday.
Let’s Go Pens!