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Niittymaki’s saves, goal bounce Bears

Antero Niittymaki made 32 saves and was credited with the game-winning overtime goal as Philadelphia defeated Hershey on Sunday, 3-2, eliminating the Bears from postseason contention.

In one of the most electric finishes imaginable, Hershey needed a win to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs for the 11th consecutive year. Tied midway through overtime, Bears head coach Paul Fixter rolled the dice and pulled goaltender Philippe Sauve during a power play, giving the Bears a 5-on-3 advantage.

Seconds later, Shane Willis‘s errant pass sailed out of the zone, caromed off the boards at center ice and found the empty net, giving the Phantoms their 12th win in as many meetings with Hershey and allowing Norfolk to secure fifth place in the East Division. Niittymaki, the last Phantom to play the puck, became just the seventh goaltender in AHL history to score a goal.

In other action on Sunday:
Ken Gernander scored with 4:02 left in regulation to give Hartford a 2-1 win over Providence and clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference… Brendan Brooks and Greg Black scored in the third period as Worcester beat Manchester, 3-2, to secure third place in the Atlantic Division… Rastislav Stana made 20 saves for Portland in a 3-2 win over Springfield… Gregory Campbell and Lee Goren had a goal and an assist each as San Antonio beat Grand Rapids, 4-3… Dieter Kochan made 37 saves as Bridgeport skated to a 2-2 tie with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.