T-Birds Succumb to Bears' Late Run in 5-3 Defeat
HERSHEY, Pa. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (26-25-7-5) fell victim to a four-goal unanswered swing from the Hershey Bears (34-22-2-4) and fell by a final score of 5-3 on Wednesday night at the Giant Center. The two teams split the six-game season series with three wins apiece.
A penalty-free first period had action at both ends of the ice in the early stages, but Chris Driedger came up with a difference-making effort as Hershey nearly opened the scoring. After a scramble in front of the net, Jonas Siegenthaler wristed one through traffic, and the puck nicked off Driedger's glove and sat in the crease. Just before Shane Gersich was ready to jab it home, Driedger sprawled back with his left arm and got the cover to keep the game scoreless.
That play would end up changing the complexion of the first. Ilya Samsonov started for the Bears and stopped the first 12 shots that came his way. A harmless dump-in in the final three minutes pulled the rookie netminder behind his cage to play the puck. With Juho Lammikko approaching, the goaltender played the puck up the far boards, but instead of reaching a teammate, it tipped off a skate and pinballed in front of the open net, where Sebastian Repo was lurking. The Finnish winger accepted the gift-wrapped puck and buried it at 17:45 to give the Thunderbirds the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Springfield outshot the Bears by a 13-6 total in the opening period, but Hershey countered that with an 18-6 shot discrepancy in the middle frame. Despite that, Springfield would get the game's second goal moments after killing its first penalty of the evening. After serving penalty time, Jean-Sebastien Dea jumped back into play, beat a Bears defender to a loose puck in the offensive zone, and beat Samsonov as he was sprawling to the ice to make it a 2-0 game at 6:04.
The Thunderbirds would be forced to go to two more penalty kills. The first went successfully past the midpoint of the period, but following that kill, the Bears took a 5-on-5 offensive zone draw and took immediate advantage. Nathan Walker touched it back to Ryan Sproul, who lasered a slap shot through Driedger from the center point position to cut the Springfield lead to 2-1 at 17:18.
Moments later, Jayson Megna had a breakaway chance to tie the game, and while Driedger made the stop to preserve the lead, the Thunderbirds would have to go shorthanded again. This time around, Hershey's power play connected, as Devante Smith-Pelly set up along the crease and tipped a Mike Sgarbossa pass into the twine to tie the game at 18:27.
Hershey carried their offensive prowess and confidence into the third, where former T-Bird Mike Sgarbossa gave the Bears their first lead off a patient play by Aaron Ness at the 7:00 mark, making it 3-2.
2:10 later, the Bears extended their lead when Riley Barber stripped the puck from a defender and saucered it across to Jayson Megna, who moved in and picked the top left corner on Driedger for the eventual game-winner to make it 4-2.
Springfield made things interesting late when Bobby Farnham took a lob pass from Vincent Praplan and beat Samsonov on a breakaway bid at 10:39 to answer the Megna tally and cut the lead to 4-3.
The Thunderbirds went until the final four minutes of the game without a power play, but with their only man advantage of the night, they could not get an equalizer. Sgarbossa sealed the Bears' win with his third point against his former team on an empty netter with seven seconds to play.
The Thunderbirds' four-game swing continues on Friday night in the final regular season matchup against the Utica Comets inside the Adirondack Bank Center at 7:00 p.m.
The Thunderbirds' next home game is set for Friday, March 22 against the Binghamton Devils on another 3-2-1 Friday inside the MassMutual Center.
Springfield Thunderbirds 2019-2020 ticket memberships are on sale now and include the best benefits of being a Thunderbirds ticket holder. To learn more about memberships and single game tickets, visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
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