Photo: Tori Hartman
After a short break for Christmas, the Hershey Bears (14-15-0-3) travel north for a mid-week matchup against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (14-12-2-1) in the teams’ second meeting of the 2017-18 season.
Last Time We Met
The last time Hershey saw Bridgeport was on November 26, and featured the battle of the Bourque Brothers, with former Bear Ryan Bourque winning bragging rights over Chris after Bridgeport downed the Chocolate and White 3-2 in a shootout. Both Bourque Brothers each scored two goals in regulation time.
The Sound Tigers are coming off a 5-1 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday night and are looking to tie a string of wins together. Bridgeport holds the title of the best penalty killing team in the Atlantic Division with a kill rate of 86.4%, despite being fifth in the Division overall. They also sit third in terms of power play conversion, with a 18.3% conversion rate.
The Bears currently sit in seventh place in the Atlantic Division, but continue to have a strong penalty kill, having killed 84.9% of their penalties this season, which is good enough for second in the Division. The Bears are fourth when it comes to power play conversion, with a conversion rate of 17.7%. The Bears finished last season with a 1-3 record at Webster Bank Arena, but earned their only win over Bridgeport in Connecticut last season.
Bridgeport Players to Watch
Casey Bailey and Devon Toews each recorded one goal and assist in Bridgeport’s last game and will look to repeat their performances against the Bears.
Rookie Scott Eansor leads the Sound Tigers in goals with 12. Sebastian Aho, also in his rookie season, has nine goals in 28 games played, good enough for second on Bridgeport’s active roster. Tanner Fritz leads team in assists and points with 22 and 30, respectively in 27 games played . Kyle Burroughs holds an impressive plus/minus rating of plus-12.
Goaltender Christopher Gibson (10-6-1) has saved 22 of the last 23 shots he has faced and holds a 2.70 goals-against average to go along with a .897 save percentage and one shutout in 17 games played this season and will be celebrating his 25th birthday while facing Hershey.
Hershey Players to Watch
Chris Bourque continues to be a huge threat to opposing teams and leads Hershey in goals, assists, and points, with 11, 24, and 35, respectively in 32 games played. He sits second in league scoring behind Manitoba Moose forward Jack Roslovic. Just as Bourque has continued to be a consistent performer for the Bears, so to has Travis Boyd, continues to be one of the Chocolate and White’s top playmakers, with 18 helpers so far this season and 24 points overall, good enough for second on the team in scoring behind Bourque.
Young goaltender Vitek Vanecek holds a 5-3-0 record for the season and was awarded two of the last three starts for Hershey. He has won three of his last four starts and has the aforementioned 5-3-0 record with a 2.37 goals-against average, .906 save percentage, and one shutout in nine games played this season.
Right Wing Riley Barber recently recorded his 100th career point in the American Hockey League, all coming in the past three seasons with Hershey. In 147 career AHL games played, Barber has recorded 47 goals and 53 assists. This season alone he has recorded 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 32 games played.
Left wing Nathan Walker was reclaimed by the Washington Capitals off waivers and will remain in Washington until the end of the NHL roster freeze on December 28, 2017. He can return to Hershey without clearing waivers after being claimed on waivers a few weeks ago by the Edmonton Oilers.
By Allison Shuey