It may not show in the standings just yet, but at the halfway point of the AHL season, the Hershey Bears have developed some valuable momentum. Saturday night at Giant Center, the Bears pulled out a 5-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The victory gave the Bears their fifth win in the last seven games.
It was a tough travel day on Friday for the bears, going to Syracuse, losing to the Crunch and turning right around and returning to Hershey. The Bears did not have their legs in the first period on Saturday, but used their fists effectively with fights involving Captain Dane Byers and Michael Latta. The Bears scored first on a tally by Ryan Stoa just over seven minutes into the first period. Bridgeport scored two and took the lead, but Hershey’s persistence eventually gave them a 3-2 advantage.
Jeff Taffe punched the puck through traffic in front of the net and Brandon Segal added a goal to give Hershey the lead. But with 10 seconds left in the second period, Bridgeport’s Mike Keenan took a shot that just got past Riley Gill to tie the game going to the third period.
It looked like the game was headed to overtime, but Segal got what turned out to be the game winner with just 2:57 left in the game. Segal’s backhander gave Hershey the lead. Cameron Schilling added an empty net goal to make the final 5-3.
“I liked our third period,” said Coach Mike Haviland. “(Bridgeport is) a skilled team. I liked the way we competed, especially down the stretch. We blocked some shots and won a big face off at the end. I thought the second half of the game we competed the right way.”
For a second straight night, the Bears only had 22 shots on goal, but tonight they scored 5 goals to win and bounce back off the loss at Syracuse. “You have to get points at home,” added Haviland. “We’ve really been good here. There are no nights off. You’ve got to get ready right away (for Albany)”
Brandon Segal had another multi-point night, scoring two goals for Hershey. Segal is in the top 20 scorers in the AHL and likes the way his team is playing. “It wasn’t our best game, but we gutted one out. I like the way our team is going. We’re coming together as a team. This is the time you need to come together. You don’t want to get to April and you’re points behind for a playoff spot. You need these points now. You need to get confidence and make sure things are clicking.”
Saturday night’s game marked the halfway point of the season for Hershey. The victory moves the Bears within a point of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. “Let’s hope we keep playing this way the second half of the season,” said Haviland after the game. “The goals have not changed here. It’s a sprint now for me. It’s on and it’s been on for us for the last month. They’ve responded a lot better. We’re not where we want to be and we’ve got to keep pushing.”
The Bears play their third game in three nights on Sunday with a 5 pm face off against the Albany Devils.