Bears dismantle Marlies, go up 3-0

Zach Sill and Jakub Vrana each scored twice and Hershey erupted for seven unanswered goals en route to an 8-2 thumping of Toronto in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Their most lopsided loss of the entire year leaves the regular-season champion Marlies on the brink of elimination, down three games to none heading into Game 4 on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN2, AHL Live).

With Toronto facing a virtual must-win game on home ice, it was Hershey breaking on top at 3:02 of the first period when Dustin Gazley was left alone in front to take a pass from Aaron Ness and beat Antoine Bibeau for his third goal of the postseason.

The Marlies responded with two quick strikes, first tying the game at 6:06 when Mark Arcobello found Josh Leivo for a tap-in at the top of the crease, his third goal of the playoffs.

Toronto then took the lead at 8:09 as Ben Smith sent Colin Smith away on a breakaway and he beat Justin Peters glove-side to put the Marlies ahead 2-1. It was Colin Smith’s first career playoff goal.

The Bears answered with two goals of their own in the second period to take a 3-2 lead.

Chris Bourque took a pass from Madison Bowey and ripped a shot from above the left-wing circle that eluded Bibeau at 6:12, the fourth goal of the playoffs for the AHL’s regular-season MVP.

Then Sill, who played 21 games for the Maple Leafs last season, potted his second goal of the series and fourth of the postseason with 52.5 seconds remaining before intermission.

Working on a power play to begin the third period looking to tie, the Marlies instead allowed a pair of backbreaking shorthanded goals as the Bears pulled away.

First, Sill stole the puck at center ice, skated in and wristed a shot that hit Bibeau up high and rolled down and behind him for his second goal of the night just 18 seconds into the final frame.

Garret Sparks replaced Bibeau at that point, but Ryan Bourque greeted him with a goal on a shorthanded breakaway, making it 5-2 at 1:42.

Jakub Vrana upped the lead to 6-2 at 5:13, stepping away from his check and beating Sparks from the right circle for his sixth goal of the playoffs.

Less than a minute later, Christian Djoos chipped a shot from the side of the cage that banked in for a power-play goal and a 7-2 lead at the 6:12 mark.

Vrana capped the scoring with 3:46 to play when he stole the puck in the neutral zone, skated in on a partial breakaway and beat Sparks for his second goal of the period.

Peters (10-4) finished with 26 saves on the night for the Bears. Bibeau (14 saves) and Sparks (seven saves) each allowed four goals for the Marlies.

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7) 
N1-Toronto Marlies vs. A1-Hershey Bears
Game 1 – Fri., May 20 – HERSHEY 3, Toronto 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 21 – HERSHEY 3, Toronto 2 (OT)
Game 3 – Wed., May 25 – Hershey 8, TORONTO 2
Game 4 – Fri., May 27 – Hershey at Toronto, 7:30
*Game 5 – Sun., May 29 – Hershey at Toronto, 3:00
*Game 6 – Tue., May 31 – Toronto at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Thu., June 2 – Hershey at Toronto, 7:30
  *if necessary… All times Eastern