The Hershey Bears scored three first-period goals on Friday against the visiting Springfield Thunderbirds, enjoyed an 18-4 shot advantage, then had to hold on to claim a 5-3 decision.
On Saturday’s historic night in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,517 fans, the Bears (25-8-3-1) rebounded from a 2-1 deficit with five unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win over the same Thunderbirds (15-16-1-4).
Friday, the Bears jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead, out-shooting the Thunderbirds 18-4 in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Ethen Frank scored twice, while Logan Day and Mike Sgarbossa each picked up two assists in Friday’s victory.
Hershey scored at 15:03 when Connor McMichael sent a pass up the left wing to Joe Snively, who skated into the Springfield zone and beat goalie Joel Hofer with a shot into the upper-right corner of the net for his first of the season. The goal extended Snively’s franchise-record home point streak with the Bears to 16 games (10g, 13a) dating back to Nov. 14, 2021.
Beck Malenstyn collected his second of the season at 16:22 when he pressured an opponent into fumbling the puck after it was sent ahead by Mason Morelli, and fired it past Hofer to put Hershey up 2-0. Logan Day collected the secondary assist.
Frank pushed his team-leading goal total to 14 on the season at 18:02 when he slammed a rebound of Day’s shot behind Hofer. Mike Sgarbossa earned the secondary helper on the goal.
A match penalty call on Riley Sutter for a check to the head of Greg Printz at 14:31 of the second period put Hershey on an extended penalty kill, and the Thunderbirds converted early into the man advantage when Brady Lyle’s blast eluded goaltender Zach Fucale at 14:59.
Frank netted his second of the evening at 1:01 of the third stanza when he broke up the right side and lifted a shot over the glove of Hofer. Sgarbossa and Gabriel Carlsson earned assists.
Mathias Laferriere tallied another power-play goal for the Thunderbirds at 3:24 to pull Springfield back to within two of Hershey.
With the Bears on a power play midway through the frame, Henrik Borgstom completed a give-and-go passing play with Garrett Pilon and Hendrix Lapierre by burying his sixth of the season at 13:38 to make it 5-2.
Will Bitten scored at 14:40 to make it a 5-3 contest, and a Hershey penalty at 17:08 allowed Springfield to pull Hofer for an extra skater in an attempt to close the gap.
“The first period response is what I wanted because I liked the chemistry tonight with every line contributing,” Hershey coach Todd Nelson. “Springfield did a good job on their power play, but overall we had a pretty solid game.”
Frank nearly completed a hat trick with approximately half a minute remaining, but his backhand shot on the empty net hit the right post. He then appeared to have scored with 12.9 seconds left in the game, but the goal was nullified for being offside.
Frank, the game’s number one star, said, “Getting a hat trick would’ve been nice, but it’s more important we just keep climbing and jumping on teams right away and we will end up with success.”
Shots finished 28-22 in favor of Hershey. Fucale earned his 12th victory of the season, setting a new personal-best for the net minder.
The Bears were 1-for-3 on the power play, while Springfield went 2-for-5 with the man advantage.
The Bears officially hit the season’s halfway mark with their best record through the first 36 games.
Prior to the start of Saturday’s game, the Bears honored Chris Bourque with a jersey retirement ceremony, the first since the Bears retired Ralph Keller’s number on Dec. 1, 2002.
In addition to Bourque’s #17 being raised to the rafters, Bourque and his family were honored with several gifts, including a commemorative hand-painted #17 jersey produced by Mark Kannell Fine Art, depicting Bourque raising the Calder Cup in 2010, and a customized five-pound Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
The victory also gave Bears head coach Todd Nelson his 500th professional head coaching win.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Hendrix Lapierre at the 3:12 mark of the first period when the rebound from Henrik Borgstrom’s shot was controlled by Mason Morelli in front of the net of Vadim Zherenko, and Morelli’s stuff-in attempt bounced to the left side of the cage where Lapierre pounced on the loose puck for his 10th of the season.
The lead was a brief one, as Martin Frk blasted a shot from the high slot past goalie Hunter Shepard at 3:34 to tie the score at 1-1. Springfield then took a 2-1 lead with a power-play strike on a Brady Lyle shot from above the circles past Shepard at 14:31.
With just over a minute remaining in the period, an equipment issue with the skate of Shepard forced him from his crease, where he was replaced by Zach Fucale for the final 72 seconds of the period.
Shepard returned to begin the second period, and the Bears tied the game at 2-2 at 9:36 when Henrik Borgstrom sent the puck ahead to Connor McMichael following a face-off in the neutral zone. McMichael skated up the left wing and snapped a shot past Zherenko for his eighth of the season.
Garrett Pilon scored with the man advantage at 13:41 when he picked up a loose puck between the circles and roofed his third of the season past Zherenko, with Borgstrom and Bobby Nardella assisting.
In the third frame, Ethen Frank continued his scoring ways, as the rookie netted his team-leading 16th goal of the season at 4:17 when he deflected a Jake Massie shot from the left point into the cage. Mike Sgarbossa earned a secondary assist.
Twenty-four seconds later, Joe Snively extended his franchise-record 17-game home point streak with a goal from McMichael at 4:41. Snively now has 24 points (11g, 13a) on Giant Center ice dating back to Nov. 14, 2021.
“It was very important for us to have to have another good night, especially with all the pre-game festivities for Chris Bourque,” said Nelson, “because I was a bit worried about the way things went in the beginning, but in the second period we got it going and from there on we kept playing our style.
“I like where our chemistry is right now but I did think it might take longer, ” continued Nelson, “so I’m happy the last couple of nights we’ve been moving in the right direction, plus it is coming at a good time because we’re going to be on the road for the next several games.”
Pilon sealed the game with an empty-net tally at 19:53 from Lapierre and Aliaksei Protas for his first multi-goal game of the season.
Shots finished 38-23 in favor of Hershey. The Bears were 2-for-4 on the power play, scoring twice with the man advantage for only the third time this season; Springfield went 1-for-2 on the power play.
Hershey continues the 2022-23 season traveling to Canada to visit the Laval Rocket on Friday, Jan. 20 and Belleville on Saturday. The Bears return home for their annual Giant Teddy Bear Toss when they host the Bridgeport Islanders on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m.
Hershey completed its season-high seven-game home stand with a record of 4-2-1-0.
Chris Bourque became the eighth player in team history to have his number retired by the Bears organization. His #17 joined #3 (Frank Mathers and Ralph Keller), #8 (Mike Nykoluk), #9 (Arnie Kullman and Tim Tookey), and #16 (Willie Marshall and Mitch Lamoureux).