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Former UMass star clinches Game 1 overtime win for Thunderbirds

The team opened the Calder Cup Finals with an overtime win against the Chicago Wolves on the road.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 2:51 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2022 at 4:19 PM EDT
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(WGGB/WSHM) - Spirits are high for Springfield Thunderbirds fans. The team opened the Calder Cup Finals with an overtime win against the Chicago Wolves on the road.

Matt Kessel, who was playing in his 29th professional hockey game, gave the Springfield Thunderbirds a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals.

“It’s good to get the first one. It took a little bit of time, but it’s definitely worth it having it be a meaningful goal like that in the finals,” Kessel said Monday.

For Kessel, success on the ice in western Massachusetts is nothing new. It was a little over a year ago when Kessel and the rest of his UMass Amherst teammates celebrated a national championship on-campus. He said the experience of winning that title has helped in the transition to the pros.

“Competing at a high level and playing some meaningful games there gets you ready for big games like this and playing on a big stage like this,” Kessel added.

Now, Kessel and the rest of the Thunderbirds gear up for Game 2 Monday night in Chicago. Another victory over the wolves would provide a commanding 2-0 series lead when the series makes its way to Springfield later this week.

“We’re playing here on the road again tonight. Tonight would be huge as well, but obviously getting the first game is a big step, but we’re looking to come out hard, play well and get a 2-0 lead,” Kessel explained,

Kessel told Western Mass News that the chance to possibly clinch a title on home ice serves as great motivation.

“We definitely love playing at home. We all love our fans and our fans would love to see that on home ice. It would be special for them, so to be able to do that would be something special,” Kessel noted.

Game 2 is set for Monday at 8 p.m.