T-BIRDS UNABLE TO KEEP BEARS AT BAYFeb 6, 2019
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (21-18-6-4) could not overcome another slow beginning as the Hershey Bears (24-20-0-3) skated away 4-2 winners on Wednesday night at the MassMutual Center.
Hershey entered the Thunderdome having scored the first goal of the game in 14 of their prior 15 contests. That trend continued when Riley Barber got credit for the game’s initial tally at even strength at 7:15 of the first period. After Lucas Johansen jumped into a rush and fired a slapper at the net from the high slot, the rebound bounced around the feet of Sam Montembeault before Barber tapped it home for his 19th goal of the season.
Springfield’s penalty kill survived two Hershey power plays in the opening period, but at even strength, the Bears would add to their lead just 2:25 later. After setting up the Barber tally earlier in the game, Liam O’Brien scored just his second goal in his last 21 games when he intercepted a puck at the offensive blue line and beat Montembeault on a second chance breakaway bid to make it 2-0.
At the other end, the Thunderbirds had 13 shots registered in the first 20 minutes, but could not dent the resurgent Ilya Samsonov, who denied every bid in the first frame.
Hershey got a difference-making stop from their goaltender in a 2-0 game in the middle period as Samsonov gloved down a shorthanded breakaway snapper from Matt Marcinew. Though the Bears didn’t score on that power play, the Hershey attack found the net twice more at even strength.
First, Beck Malenstyn came around the Springfield goal to set up Steven Whitney for a point-blank one-timer at 12:16 to make it 3-0 Bears.
4:12 later, after the Thunderbirds coughed up a puck right in front of Montembeault’s crease, Garret Pilon pounced on it and forced a wrister through Montembeault’s armpit to make it 4-0.
Springfield would crack their goose egg at 18:03 as Jamie McGinn crashed the net to take a feed from Marcinew and score to make it 4-1 heading into the final period. Samsonov turned away each of Springfield’s other 28 shots through two periods, however.
The Bears made generating offense difficult in the final period, but the Thunderbirds power play would get itself onto the board with an empty net with a minute to play as Paul Thompson picked up his team leading 23rd on a rebound in front of the crease. Harry Zolnierczyk picked up an assist to bring his home ice point streak to 10 games.
Montembeault’s night finished with 26 saves, while Samsonov improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven decisions with 35 saves on 37 offerings.
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.