In the sixth and final regular-season meeting with the Springfield Thunderbirds, Hershey recorded its 30th win of the season in a 5-2 final that, combined with Hartford’s overtime loss in Charlotte, put the Bears in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division of the American Hockey League.
Neither team was able to score in the first 20 minutes, but Garrett Pilon fed Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, who fired a high shot from the lower right circle that eluded T-birds goaltender Ryan Bednard for his 11th of the season and first of the game at 2:40 of the second.
Philippe Maillet also nailed his 11th of the season at 9:23 to make it a 2-0 lead, with Joe Snively and Christian Djoos picking up assists. Before the period ended Henrik Borgstrom stopped Pheonix Copley’s shutout string of four-plus periods at 15:43 to cut Springfield’s deficit in half.
“We talked about coming out and having a good start for the second period, and that’s what we did,” Djoos said. “We wanted to play better than we did in a couple of recent games, and we did. We expect a lot from each other and are now at the top of our division and that’s where we want to be.
“Copley (16-6-4) is playing really good for us right now and we all appreciate the work he does for us every game,” added Djoos. “We also know it doesn’t matter if “Cops” is in goal or it is Vitek (Vanecek) (13-9-1) we will get a good solid effort from both of them.”
The Bears scored three times in the third period that included a pair of power-play goals, to the delight of the near-sellout crowd 10,195 fans.
Djoos started things when his power-play shot beat Bednard for his fourth goal of the season at 3:58, one that would become the eventual game-winner.
Djoos completed a three-point performance assisting on an Alex Alexeyev’s goal at 12:08 to increase Hershey’s lead to 4-1.
Thirty-five seconds later, after Joel Lowry made it a 4-2 contest, the Bears took advantage of another man advantage, with Maillet scoring his second goal of the night at 16:34.
Hershey’s power play finished 2-for-3 and the penalty kill went a perfect 3-for-3. Final shots on goal totaled 31-24 in favor of the Bears.
Matt Moulson had no points in the game but is one of just two Bears to have played in all 50 games this season and also has the AHL’s longest active ironman streak, playing in 167 consecutive games. Brian Pinho has also played in 50 games this season.
With a 31-save shutout Saturday night Pheonix Copley recorded his second shutout of the season. In five of Copley’s six AHL seasons, he has recorded at least two shutouts, with his career-best being three during his rookie campaign with Hershey in 2014-15 and in 2015-16 with Chicago.
This season marks the first time since 2014-15 that the Bears have three different goaltenders (Copley 2, Vitek Vanecek 1, Parker Milner, 1) that have recorded a shutout. That year Philipp Grubauer (6), Copley (3), and Justin Peters (1) set a franchise record with 10 total shutouts in a season.
The Bears return to action and complete three games in three days Sunday afternoon, against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the PPL Center, starting at 3:05 p.m.