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Bears Overpower Thunderbirds in Home Return

Bears Overpower Thunderbirds in Home Return

HERSHEY, Pa. – It was a sweet homecoming for the Hershey Bears, who played their first game at Giant Center in over two weeks against the Springfield Thunderbirds after a season-high six-game road trip. In front of a loud crowd ready for hockey to return, the Bears used the energy to down the division leaders by a 5-2 count. The Bears turned in a complete team effort that saw five different players light the lamp and got a big 25 save effort by goaltender Pheonix Copley. Hershey earned two big points on an important day for the Atlantic Division standings race that saw them jump back into fourth place.

It started with a deficit for as big of a night as it was. The Thunderbirds scored on the power play just under eight minutes into the game as Keean Washkurak potted a loose puck after a shot hit the post and floated in behind Copley for the first goal. Hershey responded quickly with Dylan McIlrath scoring his 100th American Hockey League point,  tying the game from the point with his fourth goal of the season on a point shot through traffic. The Bears followed that up with a late goal from Aliaksei Protas, stuffing his seventh of the season through goaltender Charlie Lindgren to make it 2-1 Hershey.

The teams played a very even second period that saw a goal apiece go in, first for Hershey. After being knocked down twice in the sequence, Shane Gersich ultimately earned his 13th of the season, staying on his feet long enough to deflect a pass from Garrett Pilon into the net to make it 3-1. Springfield cut the lead to one before the period ended as Nathan Todd received a feed on a great forecheck by Tanner Kaspick and buried his eighth of the season. Out of his eight goals this season, three have come in the season series of five games for Todd. Hershey took control in the third period, with a key goal from Mike Vecchione on a feed from Protas, followed by a goal on a two-man advantage from Cody Franson. Protas and Vecchione finished with a goal and two assists, and Pilon with two helpers on the evening.

“Good to be back in Hershey, PA on a Saturday night,” Bears head coach Scott Allen said after the game. “First time since February 12, I believe, and it was good, it was good to have the home crowd backing us, I thought our guys responded well.”

“I felt our game had slipped slightly recently. We’re a team where our margin of error is very slim for our team, that’s just who we are and where we’re at. That’s fine though, you can still find ways to win with who you are and what you are and that’s what we had to do was to get back to our identity, and that’s kudos to our guys, I thought we did that tonight.”

It was a big night in the Atlantic Division standings again as the Bears leaped back into fourth place, courtesy of the win and a regulation loss for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Bridgeport Islanders dropped their rematch with the Providence Bruins by a 6-2 count, leaving them behind sixth-placed and idle Hartford with just five games remaining in their season. That decision helps the Bears inch closer to clinching a playoff spot with just eight games remaining, with a rematch with the Thunderbirds looming on Sunday evening.

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