SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (21-17-6-4) complete a three-game homestand on Wednesday night as they host the Hershey Bears (23-20-0-3) for a 7:05 p.m. start time inside the MassMutual Center.
The Thunderbirds have won three out of the first four matchups with the Bears in the 2018-19 season after going just 3-8-1-0 in the prior two seasons against their divisional opponent. Hershey, however, enters Springfield playing their best hockey of the season, going 8-0-0-1 in their last nine contests, including victories in each of their last three games.
Former Thunderbird Mike Sgarbossa has paced the Hershey attack with 21 goals and 39 points thus far in 2018-19. Riley Barber is close behind with 18 goals and 38 points. All-Star netminder Vitek Vanecek has won each of his last three starts, and has held each of his last two opponents to just two goals in each game. However, the Bears' third-year goaltender has struggled against Springfield this season, going 0-2 with a goals against average of 5.67 and a save percentage of .818.
Springfield is coming off a 4-3 defeat on Saturday at the hands of the Utica Comets. After falling behind 3-0 in the opening minutes, the Thunderbirds made a game of it by scoring three of the game's final four goals. Springfield's top-ranked power play broke out of a 1-for-19 funk by scoring twice on the man advantage in the third period. Jacob MacDonald scored in his second consecutive game, and Jamie McGinn scored in his first game with Springfield.
After Sam Montembeault was pulled in the game's opening 3:16, Chris Driedger provided a stellar relief effort, turning away 23 of 24 shots to allow Springfield to get back into the game.
Thunderbirds All-Star Anthony Greco has tormented Hershey in the season series, scoring five times in four games against the Bears this year. The AHL's fastest skater has 18 goals thus far in 2018-19 and leads the Thunderbirds all-time with 63 tallies.
After Wednesday's home ice tangle, the Thunderbirds take to the road for one of their longer treks of the season. They visit the Rochester Americans on Friday for a 7:05 p.m. matchup before crossing the border for a battle with the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
For tickets and more information about Springfield Thunderbirds tickets or ticket packages, visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).