03/05/2017 – (Hershey, PA- March 5, 2017)- Kelly Zajac scored twice, including notching the game-winning goal, as the Hershey Bears hockey team scored four unanswered goals to beat the Springfield Thunderbirds, 4-2, on Sunday evening at Giant Center. The win was Hershey’s sixth straight on home ice and helped the club complete a perfect 6-0-0-0 season series with the Thunderbirds.
Sunday’s game got off to a difficult start for Hershey. The Thunderbirds scored on the first two shots of the game within the first five minutes of the drop of the puck. Graham Black struck first, redirecting a Rihards Bukarts pass through the legs of Hershey netminder Vitek Vanecek to make it 1-0 Springfield.
Matt MacKenzie scored for Springfield on the power play at 4:11 of the opening period to make it 2-0 Springfield. MacKenzie’s shot from the right point rolled over the right pad of Vanecek to double the Springfield’s lead.
It took until late in the second period for Hershey to respond. Stanislav Galiev rallied the club with a power play goal at 19:05 of the middle frame. Chandler Stephenson’s pass from behind the net found Galiev on the left wing. He snapped a shot past Springfield netminder Sam Brittain for his 19th goal of the season to make it 2-1 Thunderbirds.
Hershey tied the game at 6:55 of the third period on a perfectly executed three-on-two rush. Travis Boyd maneuvered the puck to Galiev on the left wing. He centered a pass to Christian Thomas, and the winger scored his team-leading 22nd goal of the season, chipping a shot off the left post and past Brittain.
With the crowd of 9,869 behind them, Hershey completed the comeback courtesy of a patient play by veteran Chris Bourque. The forward circled the net and walked the puck back to the high slot. He snapped a shot to the goal that Brittain stopped, but the rebound sat loose for Zajac. The forward scored his second goal of the season to give Hershey a 3-2 lead. With the puck loose in the crease, Zajac scooped a shot past the outstretched Brittain to send the crowd into a frenzy.
The Thunderbirds tested Vanecek late, firing 12 shots in the third period, but came up empty, including failing to score on a late power play. Zajac sealed the win with an empty net goal at 19:11, scoring from the left wing after a perfect up-ice pass from Ryan Bourque.
Hershey went 3-0-0-0 over the past three days and are tied in points with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at 73 in a race for playoff positioning in the Atlantic Division. The Sound Tigers have the edge over the Hershey as they have played two less games.
The Bears return to action in a key Atlantic Division battle with Lehigh Valley next Friday at the PPL Center in Allentown at 7:05 p.m. Hershey enters the week just two points behind the Phantoms in the Atlantic Division with Lehigh Valley also having two games in hand. After a game in Binghamton on Saturday, Hershey returns home Sunday evening versus Providence at 5 p.m. for Dietz & Watson Dollar Dog Night and an Autism Awareness Jersey Auction.