The Hershey Bears debuted on Giant Center ice for the only time this weekend with a Saturday night match against the Springfield Falcons. Bears Play-by-Play voice Scott Stuccio tweeted hours before puck drop, “Bears undoubtedly will be ready to go for this one. Springfield (25-6-1-3) is the AHL’s top team (.771 points %).”
Hershey dropped a 4-2 tilt in Binghamton, NY the night before. However, Stuccio also tweeted Saturday afternoon that the Senators appeared to have too many men on the ice during their second period, game-winning goal.
Just as Stuccio warned, the Bears were ready to play and grinned out a 5-3 win over the top team in the American Hockey League.
Springfield has a few former Bears, including Andrew Joudrey and Patrick McNeill. McNeill played from 2007 to 2013 in Hershey, making this his first game back since signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 26-year-old became a fan favorite, winning two Calder Cups with the Chocolate and White during his time in Hershey.
The Chocolate and White watched two leads evaporate in the opening frame, leading to a 2-2 deadlock at first intermission. Ryan Stoa opened the scoring with a snap shot only 3:44 in, following a skilled move by Tyson Strachan to enter the offensive zone.
The length of the lead was as minimal as Barry Bonds’ Baseball Hall of Fame chances, as the Falcons scored 29 seconds later. A puck pin-balled in the low slot in front of David Leggio, and appeared to hit Cameron Schilling’s stick at first glance. Darryl Boyce received credit for his eighth goal of the campaign.
Nicolas Deschamps reclaimed the lead for Hershey at the 11:48 mark with a penalty shot goal. Deschamps capsized the water bottle for his club’s first penalty shot goal since November 17, 2012, when Garrett Mitchell scored on Penguins’ Brad Thiessen.
The top team in the American Hockey League again battled back to tie the game via the power play. Sean Collins capitalized into a near empty net after Leggio juggled the initial shot.
The opportunistic Bears possessed a 9-8 shot total after 20 minutes, with the majority of shots being grade “A” chances.
Brandon Segal has been nothing short of red-hot since the start of 2014, and his scoring out-break continued during the second period. With the game still knotted at 2-2, Segal deflected a Chay Genoway cannon from the right point to give the Chocolate and White their third lead of the night. Segal’s tally was his third of this weekend, and sixth dating back to the previous weekend.
Entering the third period seeking an insurance marker, Dustin Gazley delivered with 10:30 left in regulation. After a 3-on-2 rush developed into a 2-on-1 near the slot, Michael Latta sent a perfect, NHL-like cross-ice pass to an open Gazley. Mike McKenna outstretched and nearly made a highlight reel save, but the puck trickled across the goal line to bring Giant Center to their feet for a fourth time.
Michael Chaput beat Leggio with a snapshot on a transition with only 3:00 left to tighten the game at 4-3. In the final minute, with the extra attacker on for the Falcons, two offsides interrupted Springfield’s momentum and hopes of tying the game.
Following a neutral zone face-off, Schilling finished the scoring with an empty net bullet from more than 100 feet out. The final puck drop at center ice was waved by the officials, handing Hershey an impressive 5-3 win over a talented Springfield squad.