Game Preview: Thunderbirds at Bears, 7 p.m.
Springfield Thunderbirds (6-12-1-0) vs Hershey Bears (8-8-0-2)
Wednesday, November 22, 2017, 7 p.m
REFEREES: Troy Paterson (29), Furman South (44)
LINESMEN: Tom George (61), Bob Goodman (90)
Broadcast Information (Pre-game 6:30 PM)
RADIO: WQIC-100.1 FM, Fox Sports 1460-AM, WOYK 1350-AM, Hershey Bears App--Zack Fisch, the Voice of the Bears on the call
LISTEN LIVE: Fox Sports AM-1460 Stream
WATCH LIVE: AHLLive.com
THUNDERBIRDS AT BEARS: The Hershey Bears host the Springfield Thunderbirds tonight for the club’s annual Thanksgiving Eve contest. Both teams are coming off losses, but have been playing some of their best hockey of late. The Thunderbirds have won four of their last five contests, while Hershey is winners of five of the past seven games. Tonight is the second of six meetings between the two Atlantic Division rivals, and this evening is the fan-favorite Sara Lee & Canteen Vending Turkey Shoot.
PRE-TURKEY TREAT: Hershey fans have been treated to a celebration on Thanksgiving Eve regularly. Hershey has won three straight games at the Giant Center on the night before Thanksgiving, including a 4-0 shutout win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 25 last year. Over the past 10 years, Hershey is 7-3-0-0 on the night before Thanksgiving, outscoring opponents 27-18.
LAST TIME OUT: Last Sunday, Hershey failed to sweep the week as they fell 4-1 to the Providence Bruins on the road. Hershey’s Liam O’Brien scored in the first period on the power play, but Providence struck twice in the second period to defeat the Bears. The Bruins outshot Hershey 20-18, and the loss snapped goaltender Pheonix Copley’s five-game win streak, and Hershey’s three-game road win streak. Chris Bourque did assist on O’Brien’s goal in the loss, giving him a league-leading 25 points. The Thunderbirds were also in action last Sunday, falling 2-1 at Bridgeport. Bridgeport goalie Kristers Gudlevskis stopped 31 shots, and only a Bobby Farnham goal with four seconds left spoiled the shutout. The loss snapped a four-game win streak for the Thunderbirds.
TAMING THE T-BIRDS: While both teams are greatly improved from their meeting two weeks ago, Hershey has enjoyed vast success versus Springfield. Versus the Thunderbirds, Hershey has not lost, going 7-0-0-0, including a perfect 6-0-0-0 versus the Thunderbirds last year. In the seven games, Hershey has outscored Springfield 27-12. The last time a Springfield club beat Hershey in regulation was on Dec. 22, 2012 when the then Falcons shutout Hershey, 1-0. Curtis McElhinney, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, stopped all 19 Hershey shots he faced at Giant Center. Current Columbus forward Matt Calvert had the lone goal, sneaking the only shot past current Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who finished the night with 29 saves.
200 FOR TUNA: Tonight marks the 200th game in the professional career of Hershey forward Liam O’Brien. The scrappy forward has skated in 13 NHL games with the Capitals, including three this season, while playing in 182 games in Hershey over the past four years. O’Brien has been on a roll for the Bears, notching points in three straight games (one goal, two assists) and tallying points in four of his last five games since returning from Washington. Overall, he has points in six of his last seven games with the Chocolate and White. Coming off a career-year in 2016-17 where he notched 30 points, O’Brien has six points (three goals, three assists) in 14 games this season. In 182 career games with Hershey, O’Brien has scored 60 points (24 goals, 36 assists) and added 364 penalty minutes.
VET BATTLE: Tonight’s game features the AHL’s two most experienced players. Hershey forward Chris Bourque has played 676 regular season games in the AHL, and is the AHL’s active leading point scorer with 664 points. However, Springfield defender Maxime Fortunus has Bourque beat in games played in his AHL career. Fortunus, who joined Springfield on a PTO last week, has skated in 831 regular season games in his AHL career with Houston, Manitoba, Texas, Iowa, and Springfield. Both players are familiar with each other as Bourque and the Bears battled Fortunus and the Manitoba Moose in the 2009 Calder Cup Finals, with Hershey claiming the Calder Cup in six games. The two faced-off again as Hershey went toe-to-toe with Fortunus and the Texas Stars in the 2010 Calder Cup Finals. Fortunus had nine points in the playoffs, but it was Bourque who was the playoff MVP with 27 points, leading Hershey to its 11th Calder Cup in franchise history.
TOMMY TAGS IN: On Tuesday, the Bears recalled defender Tommy Hughes from the club’s ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays. Hughes, 25, has appeared in six games with the Stingrays this season, registering one assist. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound blue liner has appeared in 226 AHL games, all with Hartford, registering 30 points (five goals, 25 assists) and 143 penalty minutes. He skated in 53 games with Hartford in 2016-17, tallying five assists. The native of London, Ontario won back-to-back OHL championships as a member of his hometown London Knights in 2011-12 and 2012-13
BEARS-THUNDERBIRDS FAST FACTS: Chris Bourque’s next goal will push him past Ross Fitzpatrick for sole possession of 8th place all-time in Bears history. Bourque and Fitzpatrick are tied at 186 career goals with the Chocolate and White…Bourque is second in the AHL with 64 shots this season…Hershey’s power play ranks third in the AHL on home ice. The Bears are 11-for-45 (24.4%) at the Giant Center this season…Springfield forward Mikkel Aagaard hails from Fredrikshavn, Denmark which is the city Hershey’s Mathias Bau played in for the past three seasons.
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