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Anas Haunts Thunderbirds in Bears Win

#AHL | Former @ThunderbirdsAHL standout Sam Anas kept his ex-team from clinching a postseason spot Friday, leading @TheHersheyBears to a win. @FPHBears recaps the on-ice action

Anas Haunts Thunderbirds in Bears Win

SPRINGFIELD, Ct. – The quest for the Springfield Thunderbirds to clinch a playoff spot will wait for another day. In their final matchup of the season against the Hershey Bears at MassMutual Center on Friday, former Springfield forward Sam Anas had the decisive goal in a 3-2 Bears win. It was a gutsy, playoff-like game that served as a measuring-stick game for both teams that saw Hershey netminder Hunter Shepard make 37 saves for his sixth win in his last seven outings. Joel Hofer took the loss in goal with 29 stops.

The Bears got on the board quickly with a bit of good luck. Rookie forward Hendrix Lapierre drove the puck in, dropping his shoulder and flicking a backhand shot on Hofer that the goaltender stopped with his pad. The rebound kicked off of defenseman Hunter Skinner and past the outstretched Springfield netminder for Lapierre’s 13th of the season. Springfield evened up the game in the back half of the frame as Mikhail Abramov got credit for a goal on a net-mouth scramble that had Shepard pushed back into the net.

Hershey got it back minutes later as Garrett Pilon picked off a pass in the offensive zone and beat Hofer over the shoulder to re-establish the lead at 2-1. Pilon has five points in his last six games as he heats up at a great time for the Bears and was the game’s second star with a goal and an assist in this one. Springfield evened up the game with the only goal of the middle stanza as Keean Washkurak buried a rebound for his third straight game with a goal off a nifty original play by Greg Printz. The two teams entered the final frame evened at two apiece.

Both teams had a playoff-like edge to them, with lots of pushing and shoving and plenty of animosity despite not seeing each other since January. With the game in such a precarious state, the Bears got a power play and although it’s not always been their strong suit, the unit made it work. Anas, who tallied 64 points in a Springfield uniform and had his jersey from the Calder Cup Finals in the Hockey Hall of Fame, haunted his former team with a shot over the shoulder of Hofer for his 13th of the year and the only power play goal of the night.

It would be a fight to the finish as Springfield pressed for the tying goal. Even a loss in overtime would grant the Thunderbirds a playoff berth on this night, but the Bears defended like their hopes were on the line by throwing their bodies in front of shots, exemplified by Riley Sutter, who perhaps had the biggest shot block of all on a Martin Frk blast in crunch time. Frk previously set a record for the hardest shot back in 2020 with a blast clocking in at 109.2 miles per hour, and the Bears shadowed the tenth-best scorer in the American Hockey League well in this game to secure the win.

The Bears kept pace with the Providence Bruins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division race, as the Bruins dropped the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins by a 3-1 count in other action on Friday.

The Penguins have been mathematically eliminated from playing for the Calder Cup going into the night but were unable to play spoiler on this night to help out the Bears on the road.

Springfield stays in third place courtesy of a tiebreaker with the Charlotte Checkers losing to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, which is good immediate news with the exception of the Phantoms being only two points away from both clubs. Springfield will face off with Lehigh Valley at PPL Center on Saturday, while Hershey will host Charlotte in an important night for hashing out the standings.

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