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

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

01/16/2018 -

Hershey Bears (17-17-3-3) at Springfield Thunderbirds (18-21-1-1)
Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 7:05 p.m.
MassMutual Center

REFEREES: Corey Syvret (42), Olivier Gouin (54)
LINESMEN: Frank Murphy (29), Bob St. Lawrence (10)

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

LAST TIME OUT: The Bears are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to Lehigh Valley last Sunday at the Giant Center. T.J. Brennan scored the overtime game-winning goal on the power play at 44 seconds of the extra-session to spoil a sensational night from Hershey goaltender Pheonix Copley, who made 30 saves. Hershey opened the low-scoring affair, striking 15:12 into the game. Chris Bourque crept into the low-slot uncovered and tipped a quick shot past Alex Lyon to give Hershey the lead. The tally was Bourque's 12th of the season, tying Riley Barber for the team lead. At 8:59 of the second period, the Bears were caught defending a 3-on-1 odd-man rush after a defender was caught high in the offensive zone. Mike Vecchione slid a perfect pass across for Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who poked a backhand shot blocker side past Copley to make it 1-1. With the Phantoms on their fourth power play chance of the night in overtime, Brennan blasted a shot into the cage to seal a 2-1 win for the Phantoms. The Thunderbirds come into tonight riding high after a 5-1 win over Hartford on home ice Monday. Five different Thunderbirds scored, and Curtis Valk tallied a goal and an assist. Springfield went 2-for-6 on the power play.

LAST TIME VS. T-BIRDS: The Bears and Thunderbirds met one week ago at the Giant Center, and for the second time this season, Springfield earned a 2-1 win over Hershey. Springfield opened the scoring just 7:50 into the game as Alexandre Grenier scored the first shorthanded goal Hershey has allowed all season to make it 1-0 for the visitors. Hershey was held off the scoreboard until just 5:22 remained in regulation time. John Albert fed Dustin Gazley for his fourth goal of the season to tie the score, 1-1. In overtime, the game was won by Bobby Farnham. The forward was involved in a collision with Hershey netminder Pheonix Copley, and shortly following, he scored the winning goal.

T-BIRDS FLYING HIGH: Springfield enters tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak. The stretch of strong play started last week with the T-Birds 2-1 win over Hershey at Giant Center. Since then, Springfield has defeated Lehigh Valley and Providence on the road, and topped Hartford, 5-1, on Monday on home ice. The Thunderbirds have scored five or more goals in three-straight games. All of Chase Balisy (three goals, two assists), Anthony Greco (five assists), Dryden Hunt (four goals, one assist) and Jayce Hawryluk (one goal, four assists) have five points in the win-streak..

BOYD HITS 100: Forward Travis Boyd hit a milestone in Sunday’s loss to Lehigh Valley. Boyd tallied the secondary assist on Chris Bourque’s first period goal, giving Boyd his 100th assist in his Hershey and AHL career. The helper was Boyd’s first in five games, and moved him to 20 assists on the season, good for second on the club. The third-year forward has 146 points (46 goals, 100 assists) in 193 career regular season games with the Chocolate and White. He ranks second on Hershey with 28 points in 39 games this year, and has been called up to Washington twice, skating in two games with the Capitals.

LOOKING FOR OFFENSE: Hershey has scored just one goal in each of its past three games, losing all three by 2-1 scores. In 40 games this season, the Bears rank 27th in the league with just 2.60 goals per game. The Chocolate and White have scored two or less goals in a game a total of 20 times this year, scoring zero goals three times, one goal 11 times, and two goals six times. Hershey will look to players who have had success versus Springfield this season in Chris Bourque (one goal, three assists), Travis Boyd (one goal, three assists), and Dustin Gazley (two goals, one assist) for some more offensive firepower tonight.

GOOD GOALTENDING: While Hershey is looking for more offensive, the Bears goaltending has been sensational of late. In six of the past seven games, Hershey netminders have allowed two or less goals. Pheonix Copley's game is trending up, as in that stretch dating back to Dec. 27, he is 2-0-2 with a 1.73 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. After a rough patch in December, Copley’s recent play has dropped his goals against average to 2.98. Vitek Vanecek has been just as good with a 1.76 goals against average and a .937 save percentage, along with one shutout. While Vanecek has not played enough minutes to be qualified for the AHL leader board at this time, his 2.17 goals against average would rank sixth in the entire league.

BEARS-THUNDERBIRDS FAST FACTS: Hershey defender Colby Williams was suspended three games after receiving a match penalty for an illegal check to the head on Lehigh Valley forward Danick Martel on Saturday. Tonight is the second game of Williams’ suspension…. Hershey has won eight straight games at the MassMutual Center. The Bears last loss in Springfield was on Apr. 12, 2014 when the then Springfield Falcons defeated the Bears, 4-3 in a shootout. Michael Chaput had the shootout winner for the Falcons…Hershey’s Chris Bourque and Wayne Simpson both hail from Massachusetts…A betting man would guess tonight’s final score would be 3-2, considering the game before Hershey’s past two Outdoor Classics have been 3-2 finals. The Bears, led by a goal and an assist from Chris Bourque, beat Norfolk 3-2 in a shootout ahead of the 2012 game in Philadelphia, while Hershey fell 3-2 to Lake Erie two nights before the 2013 Outdoor Classic. 

Hershey Bears in a victory embrace

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