SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s Calder Cup Season and the Springfield Thunderbirds are ready to take the ice. First stop, the MassMutual Center with the Hartford Wolfpack coming to town Wednesday to kick off a three-game series.

“That’s why we play. We play for the playoffs and for the championship,” said Thunderbirds player Martin Frk.

The Thunderbirds returned 17 players from last year’s Eastern Conference Champion team and added a number of newcomers with AHL and NHL playoff experience, call them seasoned and savvy.

Mayor Sarno states, “Playoff hockey is back in Springfield!  Come on down and help cheer on our beloved T-Birds as they take on their I-91 divisional rival the Hartford Wolf Pack in Game 1 of the best of 3 series.  Our T-Birds are looking to make another deep Calder Cup run.  So, let’s rock the ‘Thunderdome’ and cheer them on as they make a push for the Calder Cup.”   

Springfield Thunderbirds player Matthew Highmore told 22News, “Anybody that has been through playoff runs understands there are going to be ups and downs. You have to be able to ride those as much as you can, so just trying to stay even-keeled is the most important thing.”

One of those newcomers, the team’s leading goal scorer Martin Frk. He put 30 in the cage this season and has a Calder Cup to his name with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“It’s tiring. There’s a lot of games, a lot of traveling all that stuff but when you win it, it’s all worth it,” said Frk.

This roster really does have it, all talented returners experienced newcomers in the postseason and fans renowned around the league for their passion. Players in Springfield don’t take it for granted.

“Ever since I got here this year the fan support has been awesome. You can see it two and a half hours before the game, they are out and ready to go,” said Highmore.

Game 1 is set for Wednesday night at the MassMutual Center, puck drops at 7:05 p.m. Game 2 will be held Friday in Hartford at 7 p.m. and Game 3 returns to Springfield on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. The winner advances to the division semifinals, best of five, against either top-seeded Providence Bruins or second-seeded Hershey Bears.