My First Experience As A Member Of The Press Was Covering The Calder Cup
Old time hockey, Eddie Shore.
Life is filled with firsts. Everyone remembers their first kiss, their first time driving, or even their first beer. Last night, I experienced a first; I experienced my first time being a member of the media at a sporting event. Every game I attended a sporting event prior to last night was as a fan; whether it was when I saw the Cardinals and Colts play on Christmas Day or when Enfield High School played East Catholic in baseball when I was a senior in high school.
Last night, I obtained a press pass to the Springfield Thunderbirds vs Chicago Wolves Calder Cup game 3. In the past, I've attempted to get a press pass, but because I never wrote for a legit website, I was shot down. Now that I write for Student Union Sports, I have more of a leg to stand on. I've always been of the ask for forgiveness vs ask for permission mindset; so Liam as you're reading this, I apologize for not clearing this with you. The Thunderbirds went to game 7 of the Conference Finals with the Laval Rockets and after they beat them 4-0, I immediately threw out an email in an attempt to get press credentials. An hour later, I received an email informing that I was good to go for game 3.
Games One and Two Didn't Disappoint
The series got off to a scorching hot start. The Thunderbirds had to go on the road for games one and two and were able to gut out a 5-4 overtime win. Going into the third period of game one, the Birds found themselves down 4-2; but they were able to scratch and claw their way back into the game tying at 4 a piece. In the overtime period, rookie Matt Kessel became a hero that the Birds needed. In just his 29th professional game, Kessel delivered a wrist shot over the shoulder of goalie Alex Lyon to win the game. That was Kessels first career professional goal.
In game two, the Bird once again put themselves in a hole; this time it was one too deep to climb out of. The Wolves came out firing and scored 4 goals in the first period as James Neal and the Thunder Birds couldn't get past the brick wall that was rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov. He was able to stop all 9 of Springfields first period shots. Chicago kept their foot on the gas winning 6-2 and tied the series at 1-1.
It's Been Over 30 Years Sine Springfield Hosted A Calder Cup
The last time the city of Springfield hosted a Calder Cup was in 1991. This wasn't even the Thunderbirds, it was the Springfield Indians who moved to Worcester in 1994. Springfield beat Rochester 4-2 and took home the Calder Cup the last time they hosted. After a 31 year drought, Springfield was buzzing. There wasn't an open seat at Mass Mutual and when the puck dropped at 7:05, "Let's Go T-Birds" chants rang through the arena. Defenseman Tommy Cross for the Birds set the tone early that this was going to be a chippy game. He tried to fight just about every Chicago player on the ice and pushed the refs to the limit.
With 5:10 remaining in the first period, Chicago took a 1-0 lead. Richard Panik slipped a shot past Birds goalie Charlie Lindgren. A few moments later, the Thunder Birds pulled Lindgren to try and tie the game, but were unsuccessful. Before the period ended, Chicago killed a power play; something that they've been efficient at doing this series.
In the second period, Chicago gained some insurance as Ivan Lodina netted a goal at 13:35 to go up 2-0. The Thunder Birds weren't going to go away quietly. They continuously peppered Kochetkov with shots, but he never budged. Kochetkov made an immaculate save at 8:49 when facing a 2 on 1 breakaway. With 5:24 left in the second, Chicago was able to suck the life out of Mass Mutual as Jalen Chatfield snapped a forehand past Lindgren. The third period was unremarkable. Up 3-0, Chicago didn't really push the pace and Springfield wasn't able to counter. For me, this meant I could go grab another cup of coffee. As the game winded down, Stefan Noesen scored an empty netter with 3:04 remaining. Chicago took game 3, 4-0.
Covering The Game Was A Great Experience
While the Thunder Birds weren't able to gut out the win, actually covering the game was super cool. I was able to set up at a small "press" table with other writers and drink free coffee. Kind of sick. One of the things I was definitely most nervous about though, had to be the other members of the media. I wasn't sure how they'd interact with me or just be in general; but everyone was overly helpful and pleasant individuals.
What I was most looking forward too, while also being very nervous about was the post game coaches press conference. The first coach that came into the press room was Chicago head coach, Ryan Warsofsky. Warsofsky touched on how where they're playing, under any circumstances does not matter. "It's part of being a pro, being ready to play. Doesn't matter where, it's something we preached day one. It doesn't matter the day, the time, zero people in the building or a sold out building. In Stockton, in Springfield, on Mars; we're going to show up and compete." Chicago has two more games in Springfield on Friday the 24th and Saturday the 25th.
After Warsofsky concluded, Thunder Birds head coach Drew Banister came into the press room to answer questions. When asked about Chicagos aggressiveness on killing power plays, Banister stated "I wouldn't really say that they're aggressive, their stand is good at the blue, and in zone they're a little bit more structured." He continuously stressed that they need to be better on power plays and it really proved tonight as Chicago stifled multiple Thunder Bird power play attempts. The Birds look to bounce back Friday and knot the series at 2 a piece on Friday night. All in all, I pretty cool experience and one that makes you watch the game from a different perspective.