AUBURN – The roles were a bit reversed Saturday at Norway Savings Bank Arena. 

The Connecticut Junior Rangers jumped out to a four-goal lead in the first period, as the Twin City Thunder did Saturday night, and, like the Thunder, Connecticut held off a third-period comeback attempt to secure a 6-4 victory. 

“We started the game really strong. We were all over them, their goalie (Brandon Tate) made a lot of saves,” Thunder coach Doug Friedman said. “We gave up a lot of opportunities, we kind of held (goalie) Jaxon (Friedman) out to dry a bit. It’s tough, you find yourself down 4-0 in the first, that’s a hole to dig out of, it’s a tough one.” 

Zach Lindewirth put the Jr. Rangers up 1-0 when he slid the puck past Jaxon Friedman (14 saves). A little more than three minutes later, Andrei Lyovushkin rifled a shot from inside the left circle that went just under the crossbar give Connecticut a 2-0 lead. 

Jake Layni, a Maine Nordiques sixth-round draft pick last spring, stretched the Rangers’ advantage to 3-0 with about two minutes to play in the opening period. Jin Lin finished the period’s scoring with a goal in the final minute that made it 4-0. 

The Jr. Rangers (17-8-8, 42 points) stretched the lead to 5-0 when Joseph Mancuso found the back of the net for his second goal of the weekend series on the man advantage in the middle of the second period.  

The goal marked the end of Jaxon Friedman’s outing in the crease for the Thunder (18-13-1, 37 points). Alexander Kozic (seven saves) came in to replace him. Doug Friedman wanted to give Jaxon a chance to respond in the second period. 

“That’s generally how I like to do with the goalies, I like to see what they can do, how they respond and the team can respond,” Doug Friedman said. “But, at some point, you obviously want to make a change. It’s one of those traditional coaching moves that you do to spark the team. I think Jaxon had some choice words coming to the bench, hopefully that ignites the flame under the team, too.” 

Twin City Thunder’s Adam Svensson, center, flips the puck out from in front of goalie Jaxon Friedman during Sunday’s game in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Thunder tightened defensively after the goalie change. After giving up 18 shots in the first, they only allowed 18 shots combined in the second and third periods.

As Lin was exiting the penalty box with about five minutes remaining in the second, Twin City defenseman Nicolas Poirier fired a shot from the right-point, and forward Mathieu Lapierre redirected the shot past Tate (38 saves) to put the Thunder on the board. It isn’t considered a power play goal because Lin had hit the ice when the puck crossed the line. 

The Thunder went 1-for-4 on the power play, while Connecticut was 1-for-3. 

Twin City thought they had a power play goal at the end of the second period, but the referee said he had already blown his whistle. 

“We had clear sight, the puck was loose,. It’s a tough one, when the ref does that, when he points to a goal and changes his mind — not his mind changed by his counterparts,” Doug Friedman said. “That was tough. To our guys’ credit, that was our goal, get shots through, we weren’t shooting enough. (Tate) was doing a good job, but he was leaving a lot of rebounds out front. That was our goal on the power play.” 

The Thunder found that elusive power play goal in the third period when Fisher Shea won the offensive-zone faceoff to John Kondub, who blasted a shot past Tate just after the five- and-a-half-minute mark.  

Knodub had an assist later in the game for a two-point night. 

“We knew we were playing with nothing to lose,” forward Christian Blomquist said. “Teams are dangerous when they do that. Credit to our guys for battling back. John Kondub played real well, he gave us a spark, it was a good effort from him.”

Twin City continued to chip away at Connecticut’s lead when Andrew Kurapov found the back of the net near the midway point of the third period to cut the deficit to 5-3. 

“We had a pretty clean break out, had a 3-on-2 going into the zone,” Kurapov said. “I picked (the puck) up and (dropped it to Daniels Murnicks). I believe (he had the) shot and the puck was right there, so I just tapped it in.” 

Nick Rashkovsky put the Thunder within one goal when he fired a shot into the net from the left-circle with 1:42 left in the game.

Sam Timonen capped the scoring off with an empty-net goal for the Jr. Rangers with 35 seconds remaining.

The Thunder travel to Hudson, New Hampshire, on Friday to take on the Northern Cyclones at 1 p.m. On Saturday (8 p.m.) and Sunday (5 p.m.) the Thunder host the P.A.L. Islanders.


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