The Hershey Bears traveled to St. John’s for a Saturday–Sunday Double-header with the Ice Caps.
The Bears, without captain Garrett Mitchell who was assessed a three-game suspension by the league after an uncalled cross-check in the game at Wilkes-Barre last Sunday, did have the services of Chandler Stephenson for the first time in weeks and were able to come away with one win on the weekend, maintaining their lead in the Atlantic Division.
Saturday night got off to a great start for Hershey when Jakub Vrana found his way back onto the score sheet. The rookie winger missed all three of last week’s games due to illness. Chris Bourque and Travis Boyd were credited with the assists on Vrana’s 9th goal of the season which came at 17:16 in the first.
But the Bears were unable to hang onto the lead as the Ice Caps scored a goal in each of the last two periods to secure the 2-1 victory over the Bears.
Dan Ellis took the loss for Hershey, stopping 20 of 22 shots.
Hershey was called for five penalties; St. John’s capitalized on the fourth one for the game-winning goal.
Sunday’s game got off to much of the same start as Chris Bourque scored his 26th of the season with Stephenson registering the assist in his second game back from injury. Bourque has scored at least one point in Hershey’s last seven games.
After a St. John’s Power Play goal early in the second period, Erik Burgdoerfer scored midway through the second period to make it 2-1 Hershey. Assists on Burgdoerfer’s goal went to Sean Collins and Nathan Walker.
St. John’s would tie the game once again early in the third period, but Zach Sill’s sixth goal of the season came with 65 seconds to play in the game. Burgdoerfer and Ryan Bourque assisted.
Justin Peters got the win for Hershey, stopping 23 of 25 shots.
On the weekend, the Bears went 0-for-7 on the Power Play and were 7-for-9 on the Penalty Kill.
The Bears, without Mitchell, will travel to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday and return to Giant Center Sunday to host the Penguins in a home-and-home weekend.
Hershey’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot stands at 17 with 14 games remaining on the schedule. If the Bears keep their spot as Atlantic Division leaders, they would play the 4th seed from the Atlantic Division in the first round. Bridgeport is currently 4th in the Atlantic. In five games against the Sound Tigers so far, the Bears have won 3. The two teams play in Hershey on April 8 in their final regular-season meeting.
Weekly Prospect and Two-Way Contract Players Report
Dan Ellis – 0-1 – 20 saves on 22 shots
Justin Peters – 1-0 – 23 saves on 25 shots
*Paul Carey – had season-ending shoulder surgery
*Garrett Mitchell – three-game suspension (March 12, 13, 19)
Weekly Stars Report (opponent)
1. Sill (Sunday)
3. Vrana (Saturday), Stephenson (Sunday)
Bears in the Top 20
Bourque – 1st in points (66), 3rd in goals (26), 2nd in assists (40), T-4th in PP Assists (18), T-15th PP Goals (8), T-2nd Insurance Goals (6), T-3rd in OT goals (2), 6th in shots (164), T-2nd First Goals (6)
Boyd – 8th in Rookie scoring (43 points)
Barber – T-18th in points (46), T-15th in goals (21), T-6th Insurance Goals (4), T-3rd in Rookie scoring (46 points)
Djoos – T-12th Shootout % (.667)
Ellis – T-5th GAA (2.35), 7th in wins (22), T-8th in shutouts (3), 12th in minutes (1995)
Peters – T-7th SOW (2)
Both Burgdoerfer and Gazley are AHL-only contract players.
By Julie Beidler