SPRINGFIELD, MA — The Hershey Bears fell to the Springfield Thunderbirds by a 5-2 count on Wednesday night at the MassMutual Center. Down 4-0 after 40 minutes, Alex Alexeyev and Philippe Maillet tallied to give the Bears a fighting chance before allowing an empty net goal in the final minute. Both teams are set to rematch on Friday at 7:05 PM.
The Thunderbirds wasted little time out of the starting gate to begin their offensive attack. Only 3:25 in, Jonathan Ang capitalized on a Bears defensive zone turnover, cut to the net front, and beat Vitek Vanecek low to the ice. Springfield doubled their advantage after tallying on the backend of a 5-on-3 advantage later in the frame. Erik Burgdoerfer was whistled for holding at 11:17, and Liam O'Brien was boxed for delay of game 1:07 later to provide a two-man advantage for the T-Birds. Three seconds after the initial penalty to Burgdoerfer expired, Aleksi Saarela blasted a power play goal from the point at 13:20. Shots after 20 minutes were 15-8 Springfield with the Bears trailing.
Next period, the Chocolate and White displayed strong offensive zone shifts, but were unable to hit pay-dirt. After not being rewarded, the T-Birds countered and scored twice within a span of 70 seconds to open a 4-0 cushion. After two failed clear attempts in the defensive zone, Daniel Audette beat Vanecek through a screen at 15:14. At 16:24, Ang notched his second goal of the night after burying his own rebound into an open age. Shots after 40 minutes were 24-21 Springfield.
Hershey concluded a back-to-back set in Charlotte one week earlier with a three goal 3rd period, and looked to mount a similar comeback. Alex Alexeyev scored his second goal of the season, and first since Opening Night on Oct. 5 at 1:46 of the final period to give the Chocolate and White life. Tyler Lewington and Matt Moulson earned the helpers after a center point shot on a delayed penalty alluded T-Birds goaltender Ryan Bednard. Down to the final minutes, Vanecek was pulled in favor of an extra attacker. On the 6-on-5 advantage, Philippe Maillet buried the rebound of a Garrett Pilon shot to bring the Bears within 4-2 at 17:17. But in the final minute, Owen Tippett scored his 18th goal of the season courtesy of an empty net strike at 19:25 to complete a 5-2 final. Final shots on goal tallied 36-27 Hershey after out shooting the Thunderbirds 17-3 in the last 20 minutes.
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