Bears Roll Into Home Stretch
The Hershey Bears Hockey Club picked up all six points on their three- game week to reclaim the Atlantic Division lead. The club now faces a challenging three-in-three on the road in Week 26.
The team began their week with a Wednesday contest against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the last regular-season visit to Allentown this season. Hershey would score three times on its first six shots to chase starter Martin Ouellette from the Phantoms' net, and then unload five more goals on backup Connor Knapp to go on to an 8-0 rout. Chris Bourque started the night with a power-play goal, before Mike Moore and Dustin Gazley chipped in to bring Knapp on in relief. He made several big saves through the first half of the middle frame, but the Bears proved too much. Travis Boyd, Erik Burgdoerfer, Nathan Walker and Bourque would light the lamp in a span of 3:48 to essentially close out the game. Jakub Vrana netted an unassisted tally early in the third period to cap off the night, while Dan Ellis made 21 saves at the other end for his fourth shutout of the season.
On Friday, the Bears traveled north for their final meeting of the season against the Utica Comets. Much like the first encounter with the Comets on October 23 at the Aud, Friday's game was a tightly-played contest with no goal scoring in the first period. Justin Peters made a save on a breaking Ronalds Kenins just 10 seconds into the contest to set the defensive tone, while Aaron Ness was the first to solve a tremendous Richard Bachman at 3:03 of the second. Penalties against the Bears would give Utica nine power play chances, and only on a five-on-three chance could they solve Peters. A slap shot by Jordan Subban at 5:03 of the third would be the only blemish on Peters' record in six-plus periods at the Aud this season. Jakub Vrana would give the Bears two points with his goal at 1:50 of overtime, his first game-winner of the campaign.
An early-morning arrival greeted a long day in Chocolatetown that started with a beautiful ceremony to honor retiring President/GM Doug Yingst, before the Bears took on the Albany Devils. The game's first goal, which went to Boyd in this game, was answered on Corbin McPherson's second of the season in the middle period. Riley Barber put the Bears in front soon afterward, and again the Devils would counter on former Bears centerman Jim O'Brien's 17th of the year. Both Ellis and Devils goaltender
Ken Appleby stopped six third-period shots, forcing one of the most entertaining overtimes of the season. The Bears outshot the Devils 6-3 and each team hit a goal post in the three-on-three. In the shootout, Vrana scored in the second round and Barber in the fifth, to answer Brian O'Neill's extra-round-forcing tally. Ellis denied Ben Johnson on the Devils' final shot to help the Bears to the sweep of the week.
HERSHEY BEARS NEWS AND NOTES
MAGIC NUMBER: The magic number for the Bears to clinch a playoff berth is down to seven points entering week 26.
THANK YOU DOUG: Bears President/GM Doug Yingst was honored for his 34+ years of service to the Hershey Bears Hockey Club prior to Saturday's game against the Albany Devils.
BOURQUE HOLDS THE LEAD: Forward Chris Bourque maintains the overall AHL scoring lead (28-44-72) after recording two goals and two assists last week. He currently ranks second in goals and assists, tied for fourth in power- play assists (19) and second in power-play points (28). In Hershey, Bourque has recorded 465 points (159 goals, 306 assists), ranking sixth in all-time assists, seventh in points and 12th in all-time goals. Clicking at over a point- per-game in his career, Bourque ranks 19th in Hershey games played (456).
He is one goal away from his single-season best (29, 2014-15 - Hartford) and one point away from his second-best single-season (73, 2008-09 - Hershey).
BOYD BURIES 20: Rookie Travis Boyd netted his 20th goal of the season on Saturday against Albany, becoming the Bears' third 20-goal scorer this season. Boyd ranks eighth in AHL rookie scoring (20-28-48).
BARBER POSTS 50: Rookie Riley Barber recorded his 50th point of the season with a goal on Saturday against Albany. He is one of five AHL rookies to record 50 or more points, and ranks tied for fourth in rookie scoring (23-27- 50) and second in goals.
VRANA'S ON: Rookie Jakub has posted points in five straight games (3-2-5). His goal on Friday at Utica was his first game-winner of the season. He added an assist and a shootout goal on Saturday against Albany.
PUCKSTOPPERS STAR: Dan Ellis and Justin Peters earned stars of the game in all three of Hershey's wins last week. Ellis was named Wednesday's third star with his shutout at Lehigh Valley, Peters earned second star in Friday's overtime win at Utica and Ellis was first star in Saturday's shootout win against Albany.
BEARS NEWS AND NOTES: The Bears have not had three 20-goal scorers in a single season since 2011-12 (C. Bourque, J. Micflikier, R. Potulny)...Hershey's 8-0 road win at Lehigh Valley was the club's biggest road shutout in franchise history...The Bears have the third-best offense in the AHL (3.46) despite taking the third-fewest shots per game (28.55)...The Bears' 88 second-period goals lead the AHL...Hershey has played a league-high 20 overtime games and 11 shootouts after two more last weekend...Hershey is 30-1-0-0 when allowing two or fewer goals, winning all three last week...The Bears lead the AHL in attendance once again (avg. 9,711) through 34 games.
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