In my opinion, now is the most wonderful time of the year for Hershey Bears fans. Despite clinching a playoff spot last weekend, the Chocolate and White quickly turn their attention towards the next goal: Regular season champions of the Atlantic Division. The way the schedule is mapped out, each weekend is seemingly the most important stretch of the season.
A rare Friday night tilt at GIANT Center welcomed the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to town. If the season ended today, Bridgeport, like Hershey, would be competing in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Sure enough, I believe this game is a great test for the Bears.
The Chocolate and White saw an early major power play chance at 5:10. Bridgeport’s Marc-Andre Cliche boarded Nathan Walker and was handed a five minute major and a game misconduct.
After a slow first half of the power play, Chandler Stephenson snapped a shot top corner on an offensive rush to make it 1-0 at 7:19. The momentum swung in favor of Hershey, and tallied once more before the power play expired. Aaron Ness bombed a one-timer past Stephon Williams to double his club’s lead at 9:02.
The Bears displayed a great two-way game for the remainder of the period, adding more scoring chances, but also blocking shots and clogging passing lanes.
With 10:40 left in the second stanza, Garrett Mitchell made it 3-0 Hershey on a shake and bake goal down low. Mitchell cut towards the net all alone from the wing and beat Williams low for his ninth of the season.
Into the final period, Jakub Vrana put the hammer down and made it 4-0 at 2:58. Vrana tapped in a backdoor feed from Ness to open the flood gates. With 5:44 left, Liam O’Brien joined the scoring to round out the Bears’ scoring.
Mike Halmo spoiled Dan Ellis’ bid for a shutout with a bullet top the top shelf with 3:51 remaining in regulation. The tally rounded out a 5-1 Chocolate and White final to kickoff the weekend.
An absolute high note heading into a home-and-home stretch against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Submitted by Matt Trust