HERSHEY, Pa. – Dustin Gazley scored a big third-period goal which held up as the game-winner, helping the Hershey Bears get past the Springfield Falcons by a 5-3 score on Saturday night at GIANT Center.
The Bears patiently defended the Falcons’ first two offensive possessions, and then grabbed the game’s first goal on a crafty play by Tyson Strachan. The veteran defenseman danced around a Springfield forward at the offensive blue line before sliding a perfect pass into the slot. Ryan Stoa picked it up and snapped a hard shot past goaltender Mike McKenna at 3:44 for his eighth goal of the season.
Off of the ensuing faceoff, the Falcons took the puck into Bears territory and tied the score. Defenseman Will Weber’s slapper was perfectly redirected by Darryl Boyce beyond the reach of Bears netminder David Leggio at 4:13.
Later in the period, Nicolas Deschamps was impeded on his way to the Falcons’ net by defenseman Austin Madaisky, and was awarded a penalty shot. Deschamps’ snap shot clanged down off of the back crossbar behind McKenna for his 11th goal of the season at 11:48.
But the Falcons would get the momentum back when Sean Collins slammed the rebound of a shot from Frederic St. Denis past Leggio at 13:26, on the Falcons’ first power play of the night.
The two teams would play an entertaining battle in the middle period, and the Bears were rewarded for their efforts. The puck would come to the left point courtesy of a Deschamps pass. Chay Genoway fired the puck toward the net and Segal got in the way to deflect it past McKenna at 14:00, giving the Bears a 3-2 lead.
The Bears struck for a much-needed insurance marker at 9:30 of the third on a beautiful passing play. Jeff Taffe tipped the puck forward from the offensive blue line, leading Michael Latta and Gazley in on an odd-man rush. Latta waited until a Falcons defenseman committed to a shot block, then snapped a cross-crease pass that Gazley slammed home for a 4-2 lead.
Springfield’s Michael Chaput capitalized on a neutral-zone turnover by the Bears, sending a hard shot from the slot past Leggio’s stick side with 3:00 left to play.
With the Falcons net empty and time winding down, Latta won a faceoff in the neutral zone and Cameron Schilling fired the puck into the net with less than four seconds left on the clock.
Leggio improves to 11-11-2 with a 25-save performance, while McKenna made 32 saves on 36 shots but fell to 8-3-0.
The Bears improve their record to 16-13-3-3 with the victory.
The Bears will travel to historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey for their first match of the season against the Albany Devils. Faceoff is slated for 4:00 PM. The club returns home to host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers next Saturday, January 18 at 7:00 PM. Tickets for this and all Bears home games are available at the GIANT Center box office, online at TicketMaster.com or by calling (717) 508-BEAR.
NOTES: The Bears injury scratches were RW Stanislav Galiev, D Tomas Kundratek, RW Garrett Mitchell, LW Nathan Walker and D Patrick Wey…The healthy scratches were D David Kolomatis, LW John Mitchell, RW Joel Rechlicz and LW Derek Whitmore…C Michael Latta was returned on loan from Washington earlier in the day…RW Brandon Segal extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with his second-period goal (six goals in the span)…LW Nicolas Deschamps’ penalty shot goal was the first successful attempt since Garrett Mitchell converted on November 17, 2012 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Brad Thiessen…Hershey finished the night 0-for-3 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.