The Hershey Bears wrapped up their regular season schedule on Saturday night at Giant Center with a 3-0 win over the Providence Bruins and locked in a first round playoff series with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms beginning on Friday.
The Bears had inserted different players into the lineup after playing with the same lineup during its road trip. Tonight’s game saw Dustin Gazley play his third game of the season, Mattias Backman on the blue line, and forward Christian Thomas see their first games since that stretch. Vitek Vanecek also made his first start since March 18 after Pheonix Copley started ten straight games.
The game started off slowly, with both teams trying to acclimate in front of a nearly sold-out Giant Center. The Bears struck first when Jakub Vrana buried a series of perfect passes on a power play that got Hershey a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Hershey played similarly to what got them the win in Wilkes-Barre, stopping the P-Bruins from getting many quality scoring opportunities. Vanecek came up large when called upon as well.
In the second period, the Bears were shorthanded when the penalty killing duo of Nathan Walker and Dustin Gazley sprung shorthanded. Walker found Gazley who chipped a puck over the shoulder of Bruins goaltender Zane MacIntyre for his first of the season, to the delight of Bears faithful. It was 2-0 Hershey.
The players in the lineup for the first time in a little while made their presence felt again in the second when Mattias Backman found the puck along the blue line and ripped a shot perfectly over the shoulder of MacIntyre to make it 3-0 Hershey.
Vanecek came up with 28 saves overall to earn the shutout for the Bears, who closed down the Bruins from making any real push back in a sound third period. Hershey moves past them on the final day of the regular season and sets up a first round series with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Hershey travels to Allentown for the first two games on Friday and Saturday before hosting games three and, if necessary, four at Giant Center on the 26th and 29th. Should a fifth and deciding game be needed, it would be played in Allentown on the 30th.