The Hershey Bears enjoyed the weekend with a 4-3 overtime road win on Saturday over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and followed that up on Sunday with 2-0 victory over Lehigh Valley on Giant Center ice in Hershey.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton held three, one goal leads over the visiting Hershey Bears in Saturday’s contest, but ended up on the short end of a 4-3 overtime decision on Connor McMichael’s league-leading sixth game-winning goal of the year. With the result, Hershey improved to 19-6-2-0 on the season.
The Penguins needed just 1:56 to take its first lead of the night, on Sam Miletic’s second goal of the season, on a fortunate bounce off the boards behind the net of Pheonix Copley.
Hershey pulled even at 3:15 on the fourth goal of the season for defenseman Cameron Schilling. Philippe Maillet sent the puck back to Schilling who fired a shot past goaltender Max Lagace for his 200th professional point, with Reece Willcox also getting an assist.
In the second period, Felix Robert scored his fifth goal of the season on a back-door feed from Miletic at 4:31, for a 2-1 lead.
Alex Alexeyev made it a 2-2 contest with his second goal of the season at 7:26. Riley Sutter fed Kale Kessy, who whipped a shot that Lagace stopped, but the rebound went back to Alexeyev in the left circle. With Lagace out of position, Alexeyev had an open net to hit.
The Penguins took their third lead at 4:04 in the final period on a goal from Will Reilly, who snapped a shot past Copley’s blocker to make it 3-2.
Kessy scored his second goal of the season on a breakaway at 6:08, a tally that was set-up on Sutter’s pass, to make it 3-3. With his goal and assist, Kessy had his first multi-point game since Nov. 8, 2015.
In the overtime, McMichael Alexeyev connected with McMichael going down the right wing and the rookie skated in on a break-away, cutting to the net and lifting a shot over Lagace’s blocker to give Hershey its third overtime win of the year. For McMichael, it was his team-leading 11th of the season, and his second overtime goal.
Hershey outshot the Penguins 34-23 and was 0-for-4 on the power play while the Penguins were 0-for-3.
The win was Pheonix Copley’s ninth this season and the 69th in a Hershey uniform. Two more victories will tie him for eighth place with Phil Sauve and Vitek Vanecek on Hershey’s all-time list.
Sunday’s win was a dominating 2-0 home victory over Lehigh Valley that saw goaltender Hunter Shepard make his first AHL and Hershey start. He blocked all 28 shots he faced to become, according to the initial check of Hershey records, the first netminder to accomplish that feat for the franchise.
The only puck that eluded the Lehigh Valley goalie, who finished with 40 saves, came from Hershey’s Brett Leason in the second period. At 9:58, Shane Gersich won a face-off back to Leason, who fired a shot past Sandstrom’s blocker to make it 1-0 Hershey, for his seventh of the season.
“Matt Moulson’s standing up for a teammate in the second period was the right thing to do in that situation and is the type of leadership he gives our team,” said Hershey Coach Spencer Carbery. “Every day, on the bench and in the locker room, there are countless things he says and does that our young guys pick up on.”
Shepard stopped 13 shots in the second period, including a solo effort by Chris Mueller, then blocked a dozen more Lehigh Valley chances in the final period to record the shutout.
The Phantoms pulled Sandstrom for the extra skater late in the final period and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 1:50 remaining, for his eighth goal of the season.
Gersich and Cameron Schilling assisted on the goal, and for Schilling it was his 200th AHL point.
Hershey went 0-for-4 on the power play in the game while the Phantoms were 0-for-6.
The Bears have won seven straight games at GIANT Center and three straight games overall.
“I think our guys have a pretty solid approach to these games, despite not having any playoffs to look forward to, and I like their mindset coming down the stretch right now as we come toward the end,” Carbery said about the remaining games.
The two teams will meet again on Wednesday at the PPL Center in Allentown.
Spencer Carbery became the 12th coach in franchise history to achieve 100 wins.
The Bears improved to 20-6-2-0 on the season and are 4-3-2-0 versus Lehigh Valley this season, 11-1-2-0 at home, but all three losses in Chocolatetown have come at the hands of the Phantoms. Hershey is 2-1-2-0 versus the Phantoms at GIANT Center, and a combined 9-0-0-0 versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Binghamton.