SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Despite Wednesday’s weather, thousands made their way to the Mass Mutual Center to see the thunderbirds in action.

The T-Birds took on the Hartford Wolf Pack in an I-91 rivalry Wednesday evening. Entering Wednesday’s game, the Thunderbirds were in fourth place in the Atlantic division. In their return to home ice, the Springfield Thunderbirds (25-19-2-4) fell 5-1 to the Hartford Wolf Pack (22-20-3-6) on Wednesday night.

As has been Joel Hofer’s norm recently, it was a busy opening 20 minutes for Springfield’s All-Star netminder. According to a Thunderbirds news release sent to 22News, the Wolf Pack had two power plays, including one in the game’s opening minute, and through 20 minutes, they had fired a shot per minute for a total of 20 in the first frame overall.

Despite some controversy, the Wolf Pack found the back of the net on their 18th shot. In an attempt to move the puck, Hofer had come out of his net to move it just left of it. With 3:50 left in the period, Matthew Robertson snapped his pass into a yawning net after his pass was deflected. While Hofer and T-Birds coach Drew Bannister argued that Hofer was impeded trying to get back into the crease, the goal call was upheld, and Hartford took the 1-0 lead into intermission, outshooting Springfield 20-9.

At 8:12 of the second, Springfield was plagued by a giveaway in the defensive zone, and Will Cuylle poked it in the middle, where Lauri Pajuniemi ripped it past Hofer’s glove hand, making it 2-0.

After Martin Frk’s wrister from the middle of the blue line was rebounded by Will Bitten, Springfield had its fifth power-play goal of the night at 11:10.Scott Perunovich received his second assist in three games since his comeback. 

However, the 2-1 disadvantage rapidly grew as Pajuniemi scored his own power-play goal at 13:41 to bring the score to 3-1 going into the third. With 30 stops on 31 shots, Dylan Garand had a good night in the Hartford goal. At 1:10 into the third period, Cuylle added a goal of his own to make it 4-1, and Springfield would never get any closer. 

22news spoke with fans as they watched a night of hockey in downtown Springfield, escaping the elements outside. “We are watching a hockey game, said Scott Allen of Springfield. “I am enjoying it. It takes my mind off my problems.”

“Every time I go to the Thunderbirds game I just get hyped up,” added Jacob Roberts of West Springfield. “That’s what happens.”

At 17:12, Pajuniemi scored his third and final goal of the game into an empty net. The thunderbirds took the “L” Wednesday night, as they were beaten by the Wolf Pack 5 to 1. On Saturday, when they host the Rochester Americans for Military Appreciation Night presented by King Gray Coach Lines, the T-Birds want to bounce back