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Bears Clinch North Division, AHL Title in Win Over Devils

Bears Clinch North Division, AHL Title in Win Over Devils

HERSHEY, Pa. – The Hershey Bears clinched the North Division and the regular season AHL title in a 3-2 win over the Binghamton Devils on Saturday afternoon at Giant Center. This is the Bears’ first division title since the 2015-16 season. The Bears overcame a 1-0 deficit and hung on in the third period for their 13th win on home ice this season. Connor McMichael’s goal stood up as the game-winner for his eighth such tally this season, and Zach Fucale made 23 saves on 25 shots to secure the win, while Jeremy Brodeur made 32 saves on 35 shots in the final meeting between the two teams.

The win, coupled with an overtime loss by the Laval Rocket to the Toronto Marlies, secured the regular-season title and the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy for having the best record in the AHL ahead of tomorrow’s finale. It’s Hershey’s first AHL title since the 2009-10 season, where the Bears also captured their most recent Calder Cup and the third regular-season title during their affiliation with the Washington Capitals. Although the Bears do not have a chance to compete for the Calder Cup this season, earning the title sets the stage for next year as the team builds on this campaign.

The Devils jumped out to the early lead when Tage Thompson scored his second goal of the season off a nifty feed on the rush from AJ Greer to make it 1-0 Binghamton. Despite how the season has gone for the Devils, they did a good job holding the lead for much of the first half of the game, limiting the depleted Hershey forward group. Momentum shifted when a big scrum broke out in a multi-man fight when Thompson sent Hershey defender Rob O’Gara flying into the boards. O’Gara bounced up and dropped the gloves, and fellow Bears Eddie Wittchow and Kale Kessy jumped to his defense.

The game shifted after the fight as Hershey rattled off three straight goals in the span of three minutes to jump to a 3-1 lead. The scoring starting with a laser from the blue line from Paul LaDue in his return from the taxi squad, shooting from the blue line through a maze of traffic to even the score at one. One minute and 22 seconds later, Aliaksei Protas picked up a clearing attempt from Shane Gersich that skipped a blue liner’s stick and beat Brodeur on a breakaway to jump the Bears up 2-1. Another minute and change later, Brett Leason spotted McMichael on the back door for a slam dunk for the third Hershey goal in rapid succession.

The Devils gave it all they had in the third period, starting early when Mason Jobst scored a beauty for his fifth of the season. Jobst knocked a point shot down to himself, recollecting the puck and snapping a shot past Fucale to cut the deficit to just one goal in the only power-play marker of the game. Binghamton outshot Hershey 10-9 in the third by virtue of some power plays, but Hershey hung on to claim the 3-2 victory in the last matchup of the season between the two teams. The Bears earned their 11th win in 12 tries against the Devils despite some massive losses on the forward line, dressing eight defensemen in the game for the second straight time. Forward Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was the latest casualty upfront for the Bears, who were without a lot of their offensive best on this day.

The Bears and Devils wrap up their seasons tomorrow as Hershey takes on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins while Binghamton plays the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The win is Hershey’s third straight, while the loss is Binghamton’s fifth straight.

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