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Game Preview: Bears at Thunderbirds, 7:05 p.m.

Game Preview: Bears at Thunderbirds, 7:05 p.m.

12/29/2017 -

Hershey Bears (14-16-0-3) at Springfield Thunderbirds (13-18-1-1)
Friday, December 29, 2017, 7:00 p.m
MassMutual Center

REFEREES: Olivier Gouin (54), Peter MacDougall (45)
LINESMEN: Glen Cooke (6), Kyle Richetelle (47)

Broadcast Information (Pre-game 6:35 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 StreamCaps Radio 24/7


BEARS AT THUNDERBIRDS: The Hershey Bears play their final game on the road in 2017 this evening versus the Springfield Thunderbirds. Hershey is still looking to get the ball rolling on climbing the Atlantic Division standings after dropping a 3-1 decision at Bridgeport on Wednesday. While Springfield is still last place in the Atlantic Division, the Thunderbirds are a much improved club since Hershey saw them last, going 3-0-0-1 over the past four games.  

LAST TIME OUT: On Wednesday night, the Bears fell 3-1 on the road to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Hershey started the game with a promising start as Liam O’Brien tallied the opening marker just 1:38 into the contest. However, Hershey was foiled by goaltender Christopher Gibson the remainder of the night, as the netminder made 21 saves to earn the win on his 25th birthday. Scott Eansor had a goal and an assist for Bridgeport, who went 3-for-6 on the power play while Hershey was 0-for-4. The Thunderbirds have not played since last Saturday when they fell on home ice, 2-1, to the Providence Bruins in a shootout. Alexandre Grenier had the lone goal for Springfield in regulation, but Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson struck in regulation and tallied the shootout winner for Providence. Springfield outshot Providence, 24-23.

LAST TIME VS. T-BIRDS: Hershey and Springfield last met on Nov.22 at the Giant Center. Springfield escaped with a 2-1 victory, giving the Thunderbirds their first win over Hershey in eight tries. Anthony Greco opened the scoring 5:58 into the second period, but Dustin Gazley responded for Hershey just three minutes into the third period to tie the score. However, Thomas Schemitsch earned the game-winning marker at 12:17 of the third period, deflecting a wrist shot from the point past Hershey goaltender Pheonix Copley. Hershey outshot Springfield 29-27, and both teams came up empty on the power play, with Springfield going 0-for-3 and Hershey 0-for-5.

WELCOME BACK WALKER: Tonight’s game marks the return of forward Nathan Walker to Hershey’s lineup after being loaned from Washington. The fan-favorite in Hershey has skated in 202 career AHL games with the Bears, tallying 79 points (34 goals, 45 assists) to go along with a +30 rating and 144 penalty minutes. Walker tallied 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) for Hershey in 2016-17 during a season that saw the forward limited to 58 games due to injury. The 5-foot-9, 186-pound forward has also played in 32 Calder Cup Playoff games with the Bears, scoring 11 points (four goals, seven assists). Walker, 23, played in seven games with the Capitals this season, scoring one goal and tallying four penalty minutes. Walker made history when he became the first Australian to play in the NHL when he made his debut on Oct. 7. The forward scored his lone goal that evening versus the Canadiens in a 6-1 Washington win. He was claimed off waivers by Edmonton on Dec. 1, and appeared in two games with the Oilers before being reclaimed on waivers by the Capitals on Dec. 20. Walker will wear #12 with the Bears. Forward Jeremy Langlois will switch to #13.

LIAM LIGHTS THE LAMP: Hershey forward Liam O’Brien scored the lone goal on Wednesday in a 3-1 loss to Bridgeport. For O’Brien, it was his eighth goal of the season, tying him for second on the club with Riley Barber and Mathias Bau. O’Brien is on pace to smash his career-high of 10 goals, set last season in a year he registered 30 points for the Chocolate and White. While he was known more as an enforcer and physical presence during his early days in the AHL, O’Brien has always had a scoring touch, as he hit the lamp for 20 goals with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL in his last junior season in 2013-14.   

WINNING IN SPRINGY: Dating back to the days of the Springfield Falcons, Hershey has won seven straight games in Springfield. The Bears beat the Thunderbirds earlier this season at the MassMutual Center, 3-1. The last time a Springfield team beat Hershey in regulation at the MassMutual Center was on Mar. 8, 2008, a game current Hershey forward Chris Bourque played in. Robbie Schremp had the game-winning goal and now NHL All-Star Devin Dubnyk earned the win in goal in relief, stopping 22 shots in a 5-4 victory.

VET BATTLE:  Tonight’s game features the AHL’s two most experienced players. Hershey forward Chris Bourque has played 691 regular season games in the AHL, and is the AHL’s active leading point scorer with 675 points. However, Springfield defender Maxime Fortunus has Bourque beat in games played in his AHL career. Fortunus, who joined Springfield in mid-November, has skated in 843 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, and Fortunus and the Texas Stars in the 2010 Calder Cup Finals. Fortunus had nine points in the 2010 playoffs, but it was Bourque who was the playoff MVP with 27 points, leading Hershey to its 11th Calder Cup in franchise history.

BEARS-THUNDERBIRDS FAST FACTS: Wednesday’s loss at Bridgeport marked defender Hubert Labrie’s 100th game as a member of the Hershey Bears…Hershey forward Dustin Gazley is three points from 100 in his Bears career…New Springfield forward Greg Chase skated with the Calgary Hitmen in 2014-15, playing under former Hershey Bears head coach Mark French…Springfield was assigned veteran defender Mark Fayne from Edmonton. The blue liner has played 389 NHL games, including four seasons with the New Jersey Devils.

Hershey Bears in a victory embrace

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