The Hershey Bears visited the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the last time this season with a lot on the line with the teams separated by only two points in the standings. For the first time in four contests in Bridgeport, Hershey took the game on a clutch power play goal from Travis Boyd and won the game with an empty net goal by a final of 3-1.
Unlike both of the games the Bears played at home this weekend, this game was a defensive showdown as many of the contests between these two clubs have been. The game was scoreless for the entire first period, and it was scoreless until Bridgeport’s Ross Johnston beat Pheonix Copley early in the second period.
The Bears would tie the game a little later on during the period. The red-hot line of Stan Galiev, Boyd, and Paul Carey along with Christian Djoos combined to get the Bears on the board as Djoos took a point shot, which Carey batted out of mid-air into the net on the rebound to make it one-all.
Make no mistake, Copley was the star of the game for the Bears. Facing NHL veteran Jaroslav Halak, Copley stood tall and made a total of 33 saves Sunday afternoon – many at key moments on penalty kills that might have burned the Bears in previous matches with the Sound Tigers.
One chance in the third period while the Bears were shorthanded had Copley stretching his left leg over to the post to stone Johnston not once, not twice, but three times to preserve the game for the Bears.
The game was winding down looking like it would head to overtime, but with 2:55 remaining Terry Koharski called the Sound Tigers for high sticking Boyd. After a wise timeout from Troy Mann to compose power play unit, the Bears would take the lead. Boyd picked up the puck from his off wing, skated to the top of the left circle and ripped a shot over the glove hand of Halak to give the Bears the lead with only 1:23 to go in the game.
Bridgeport would pull Halak and hope for a goal of their own in the final 83 seconds. Ryan Bourque would make an excellent pass to Garrett Mitchell, who made a nifty move to stay onsides and tucked the puck into the empty net to deny Bridgeport any hope of a comeback, and the Bears won the biggest game of the year to date 3-1.
- Djoos added two more assists in what was a fantastic weekend for him, and Carey assisted on Boyd’s power play marker to give him two points as well. Both players could easily be the AHL’s player of the week honors as they have been unbelievable these last three games.
- The Bears were two for four on the power play, while Bridgeport was 0 for 5, as special teams proved to be a huge part of Hershey’s win in addition to the fantastic goaltending from Pheonix Copley.
- The win puts the Bears four points over the Sound Tigers, and now two above the Providence Bruins to take them into third place in the Atlantic Divison.
- Hershey is now only one point back of the Phantoms for second place despite Lehigh Valley holding two games in hand and within four of the division-leading Penguins.
- Hershey is 8-2-0-0 in its last ten games, while Bridgeport has gone 4-5-1-0 and Providence have had a 5-5-0-0 record in their last ten games.
- Mattias Backman made his Bears debut today. He took Aaron Ness’ place in the pairing with Tyler Lewington as Ness was an injury scratch with a lower body injury today.
Three stars of the game:
1. Travis Boyd – game winning goal
2. Pheonix Copley – 33 saves
3. Paul Carey – one goal one assist
Bridgeport strikes first
Carey with his sixth goal of the weekend
Boyd on the power play makes it 2-1 Hershey
Mitchell seals the win with an empty net goal