Bears Best T-Birds for Second Time in November

Nov 25, 2016

Springfield, MA – The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-6-2-2) could not maintain a 2-1 lead after the opening period as they fell to the Hershey Bears (10-4-3-1) by a final score of 5-2 on Friday night at the MassMutual Center before a crowd of 4,317.
The Thunderbirds did not have the most auspicious start on a night where they entered in the doldrums of a franchise-worst four game winless streak. Just 4:30 into the opening period, Liam O’Brien successfully used a Springfield defenseman as a screen off the rush to beat Reto Berra with a surprise wrist shot to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.

The Bears’ penalty kill entered Springfield on a 21-for-21 hot streak, but the Thunderbirds quickly rained on that parade when Mike Downing got a point shot through traffic and past Joe Cannata at 9:26 of the period on the game’s first power play for either team. 

From there, the Thunderbirds exerted themselves offensively, finishing the period with the final six shots on net, including an early breakaway chance for Mike Sgarbossa and a near-breakaway attempt forGreg McKegg, who was skating in his first game in Springfield on the season. 

In the period’s final minute, Chandler Stephenson made a goal-saving stop for the Bears, as he went down to a knee in the goal crease to deny Sena Acolatse of the tie-breaking goal. Despite the near-miss, the Thunderbirds were not deterred, and with 22 seconds left in the period, Shane Harper picked up a rebound to the left of Cannata and neatly tucked it into the empty goal for his first goal of the season in Springfield. 

The Thunderbirds carried the 2-1 lead into intermission thanks to Harper’s goal, which came as the result of a deflected shot by MacKenzie Weegar that sat on the perimeter of the crease, leading to Harper’s first tally in a Thunderbird jersey. 

Cannata was forced to be the Bears’ best player on the ice early in the second period, as n early penalty to Hubert Labrie opened the door for the Thunderbirds to attempt to extend the lead. Despite five shots on the net for Springfield, Cannata held the fort for the Bears.

The game’s complexion changed on an innocent looking too many men on the ice minor to Springfield at the 14:39 mark of the frame. Largely quiet in the period, the Bears offense awoke from its slumber quickly on the ensuing power play, as Christian Djoos rifled a wrist shot from the left circle over the arm of Berra at 15:13. 

After Djoos’ tying goal, the Bears followed the Thunderbirds’ example in the first period, getting a last-minute, lead-changing tally. This time, Darren Dietz flipped a point shot at Berra’s net. Berra made the first save, but in doing so kicked the rebound right to charging Hershey winger Nathan Walker, who slammed the rebound into the open net to give Hershey a 3-2 lead heading into the final period. 

The third period began with some fisticuff fireworks, as Ryan Horvat and Zach Sill got their respective benches and the crowd inside the MassMutual Center energized with a spirited scrap 2:57 into the final frame.

Just moments later, a pair of players on each side picked up roughing minors after a whistle as the game’s animosity reached a boiling status.

When the shenanigans subsided, though, the Bears ultimately were too tough a defense to crack, as Cannata finished with 25 stops for his second win over Springfield this season. Berra made 16 saves in the loss. Sill and Walker finished off the Bears’ win with empty-net tallies in the final two minutes of play.

The two squads quickly turn around to hold a grudge match from the Giant Center in Hershey on Saturday night beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET. 

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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