Bears Earn Season Series Split vs. T-BirdsMar 17, 2018
HERSHEY, PA - The Springfield Thunderbirds (28-30-5-1) let two leads slip away as the Hershey Bears (27-29-4-5) salvaged a split of the season series with a 4-2 win on Saturday at the Giant Center.
Despite both teams playing an evening ago, the first period pace was frenetic at times. Young goalies Sam Montembeault and Vitek Vanecek would both be tested in the opening minutes, with Montembeault turning away a 2-on-1 bid by Joe Whitney, while Vanecek kept Chase Balisy from burying a centering pass from Anthony Greco later in the frame.
However, Greco would not be kept off the board for long. In the final minutes of the frame, the Thunderbirds' leading goal scorer found a soft spot behind a Hershey defenseman before taking a slick feed from Balisy off the right wing wall. With Vanecek out to challenge, Greco surprised the Hershey goalie with a soft backhand chip into the top shelf to make it 1-0 at 17:44.
The second period would feature one of the crazier ten-minute stretches of the Thunderbirds season, with roller coaster turns at every stage. First, the Bears struck in the opening minute of the period to tie the score on a wraparound by Nathan Walker to tie the score.
After the Thunderbirds went shorthanded, Springfield had a gift-wrapped chance to make it a 2-1 game when Alex Grenier was awarded a penalty shot, but he could not beat Vanecek on a backhand chance.
Not to worry, Dryden Hunt made up for Grenier's miss by slamming a one-timer through Vanecek right off a faceoff win by Jayce Hawryluk to make it a 2-1 game at 3:11.
But not to be outdone, the Bears went shorthanded and Dustin Gazley found space over the left wing to lift a wrist shot over Montembeault to tie the score again, 2-2, at 4:34.
The Bears would not be finished, and less than a minute later, Walker got his second of the night after taking a drop pass in the slot from Lucas Johansen to give Hershey its first lead, 3-2, at the 5:27 marker.
Things took a nasty turn past the middle stages of the period when Grenier was drilled from behind into the glass by Chris Bourque. For his role in the incident, Bourque was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct, leaving the Bears without their leading scorer for the rest of the night.
After Josh Brown evened the slate for two minutes to start the major for roughing, the Thunderbirds were anxiously awaiting major penalty time, but before that could happen, Greco was whistled for a curious unsportsmanlike conduct call to give Hershey a brief 4-on-3 power play.
After Hershey failed to take advantage, it was the Bears' turn to parade to the box when Johansen was called for a slash to give Springfield 1:25 of two-man advantage time. The Thunderbirds could not solve Vanecek with the golden opportunity to tie the score, as the 22-year-old netminder made a sprawling, pad-stacking save on Curtis Valk to put an exclamation point on the kill.
The Thunderbirds would never regain their footing in the third, and Wayne Simpson would add insurance at 12:01 to make the final score 4-2. Vanecek made 22 saves by night's end to secure the victory in goal, while Montembeault made 25 stops for Springfield.
The Thunderbirds complete their third straight three-game weekend with a contest in Allentown tomorrow afternoon against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Next weekend, Springfield makes their only visits to Rochester and Toronto on March 24-25.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about 2018-19 Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including the lowest prices for the 2019 AHL All Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.