Bears' Early Burst Too Much for T-Birds

Nov 26, 2016

Hershey, PA  The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-7-2-2) never recovered from a three-goal start from the Hershey Bears (11-4-3-1) on Saturday night at the Giant Center in Hershey, falling by a final count of 4-3, the Thunderbirds' sixth consecutive defeat. 

The Bears, winners of four of their last five games entering play, wasted little time picking up where they left off on Friday. Travis Boyd cashed in just 2:03 into the opening period with a perfectly placed shot from the right wing circle that beat Reto Berra over the arm. 

With the early 1-0 lead, the Bears then received the game’s first power play, and the man advantage unit controlled the play, culminating in a goal by Chandler Stephenson at the 7:55 mark to put Hershey on top 2-0.

At that point, Berra’s night came to a close, as Mike McKenna tagged in to replace his counterpart after Berra saw just four shots. McKenna stopped the bleeding in denying all four shots he saw in the final 12:05 of the first period.

At the other end, Vitek Vanecek had a calm opening period in the Bears’ net, stopping the only four shots that came his way.

Period two began similarly to the way the game opened for the Bears, as Christian Thomas moved up on the left wing on the rush to snap a wrister over McKenna’s glove hand to give Hershey a 3-0 lead.

However, Geordie Kinnear’s Thunderbirds refused to let the scoreboard dictate the game, and in a period that saw Springfield outshoot Hershey, 12-4, Springfield went to the offensive. After Dryden Hunt wrestled himself free from a contentious board battle behind the goal, he quickly found Anthony Greco in the slot area, and the Ohio State alumnus snapped a one-timer past Vanecek at 9:45 to give the Thunderbirds life and cut the lead to 3-1.

Just 2:08 later, Jared McCann, in just his second game in the AHL, introduced his presence. Mike Downing threaded the needle on a two-line pass from his own line, where Paul Thompson tipped the puck into the middle of the ice. McCann moved in on a mini 2-on-1 and successfully pierced Vanecek on a stick-side try to bring Springfield to within one at 3-2 with 8:07 to play in the period. 

At the other end, McKenna stayed poised despite not needing to face much of an attack from the Bears, who themselves mustered just four shots in the middle stanza.

The Bears, though, continued their theme of quick starts to periods, as Boyd scored his second of the night just 3:49 into the final period to provide the ultimate difference maker. 

The Thunderbirds generated some offense in the final five minutes on a night where they mustered only 19 shots on net. Shane Harper provided his second goal of the weekend on a pinball backhand pass from behind the net at 16:09 of the final period. 

With McKenna on the bench, Vanecek then came up with the most clutch save of the night, sliding to his right to stonewall Hunt in the final 20 seconds to seal Hershey’s third consecutive win over Springfield in the season series.

The Thunderbirds return home for a pair of games on Dec. 2-3 against Bridgeport and Providence respectively. Friday's contest on Dec. 2 marks Star Wars Night and another $1 Night featuring the MGM Springfield Concert Series, while Saturday brings with it the first ever Teddy Bear Toss in Springfield hockey history presented by Teddy Bear Pools and Spas. Additionally, the Dec. 3 game is Military Appreciation Night, presented by Smith & Wesson.

Interested in being part of the next era of AHL hockey in Springfield? Springfield Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships start as low as $12 per game and feature the most exclusive benefits, including a commemorative jersey. For more information, fans may call the Thunderbirds ticket office at (413) 739-GOAL (4625).

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