Hershey dropped Sunday’s game to the Providence Bruins 3-2 in a shootout at the Dunkin’ Donuts Cente,r in the sixth and final game of the Bears-Bruins regular-season series, as it finished 2-1-1-2 versus the Bruins.
The Bruins entered game as the hottest team in the AHL. The win was their 11th straight, as they’ve been outscoring opponents 40-19, while collecting points in 12 straight games for an 11-0-1-0 record. Providence has also been dominant on home ice collecting points in 11 straight home games with a 9-0-1-1 record.
Providence scored the game’s first goal at 9:28 when Zach Senyshyn redirected a center point shot from Josiah Didier past Pheonix Copley for the period’s lone tally.
The Bruins extended their lead to 2-0 in the middle period when Jakub Lauko moved to the slot and beat Copley along the blocker side for his fifth goal of the season. Copley and Hershey’s penalty killers highlighted a key 5-on-3 kill for a full two minutes after Colby Williams and Liam O’Brien were both penalized at 14:06.
Liam O’Brien was awarded a third-period penalty shot that was denied by Providence goalie Dan Vladar. Still down by two, Hershey mounted a dramatic comeback in the final two minutes to force overtime.
Copley was pulled in favor of an extra skater and Philippe Maillet brought the Bears closer with a net-front tap in at 18:17. After the ensuing face-off at center ice, Hershey went back to work in the offensive zone and pulled Copley again.
With 2.2 seconds left, Daniel Sprong found Matt Moulson on a cross-ice feed and he scored into an open cage to tie the game at 2-2.
Sudden-death overtime did not decide a winner, and the game progressed to a three-round shootout. Ryan Fitzgerald scored in the opening round for Providence and Vladar stopped all three Hershey shooters to hand the Bruins a 3-2 shootout decision.
Vladar stopped 35 of 37 shots. Phoenix Copley stopped 23 of 25 shots through the overtime and two of three shootout attempts.
The Bears finished a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill.
Hershey’s record moved to 37-18-3-4 following a 2-0-0-1 weekend in New England. Hershey concluded the weekend claiming five of six possible standings points after winning on Friday and Saturday in Hartford.
The Bears return to action with a Friday the 13th showdown on home ice against the Toronto Marlies.
The late-game comeback and critical standings point ensured Hershey would conclude the weekend in first place of the Atlantic Division with 81 points. Providence is second with 80 and Hartford is third at 73.
Brian Pinho notched his 20th goal of the season Saturday joining Matt Moulson (21) as the club’s only other 20-goal scorer.
Defenseman Bobby Nardella had the most productive game of his pro career Saturday, assisting on Hershey’s first three goals, giving him his first pro-three-point and three-assist game. He now has 27 assists which tie him for the team lead with Philippe Maillet, and the now-departed Christian Djoos.
Nardella’s 27 helpers rank third among rookie defensemen in the AHL and are the most for a Hershey rookie since Travis Boyd (32) and Riley Barber (29) in 2015-16. It is also the most by a Hershey rookie defensemen since John Carlson had 35 helpers in 48 games in 2009-10.