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BY DON SCOTT

The Hershey Bears began their latest three-games-in-three-nights stretch with a 5-3 road loss to the Syracuse Crunch on Friday. The loss tended the team’s four-game winning streak. 

The Crunch took the lead at 2:45 of the first period when Cole Koepke took a pass from Gabriel Dumont and beat Hershey goaltender Pheonix Copley.

The Bears made it 1-1 at the 8:37 mark on the first of Axel Jonsson-Fjallby’s two power-play goals, on a shot from the top of the left circle for his eighth goal of the season. Lucas Johansen and Alex Alexeyev had the helpers. 

Alex Green regained the lead for Syracuse at the 12:51 mark with his first goal of the season.

P.C. Labrie made it a 3-1 Syracuse edge 75 seconds into the middle period. Hershey countered with Jonsson-Fjallby’s second power-play goal of the night on a shot from the left face-off circle that eluded Crunch net minder Max Lagace.

Syracuse once again scored in the opening minutes of the third stanza, after a successful Bears’ penalty kill, when Gabriel Fortier made it a 4-2 lead on a deflection past Copley at 1:58.

Trailing by two goals, Hershey rebounded quickly while skating 4-on-4. A pass by Joe Snively sent Garrett Pilon towards the goal to make it 4-3 for his 10th goal of the campaign.

In the closing seconds, Alex Barre-Boulet scored into an empty net at 19:51 for the 5-3 final.

Shots on goal favored Syracuse 26-23. The Bears finished the night 2-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.

Bears Notes:

The Washington Capitals recalled goaltender Zach Fucale from Hershey and assigned him to the taxi squad. They also announced that goaltender Hunter Shepard has been re-assigned to Hershey after a brief recall to the taxi squad.

The Bears announced that forward Will Graber was re-assigned to Fort Wayne and defenseman Jordan Subban was re-assigned to South Carolina. 

On Saturday, Hershey wasted no time getting back in the win column, with a 3-0 win over the visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Shane Gersich scored twice and goaltender Hunter Shepard had a 28-save game to record his second AHL shutout.

Gersich started the scoring at 17:28 of the first period firing a shot into the net on a centering pass from Mike Vecchione. Mason Morelli earned the secondary helper and later assisted on Gersich’s second goal of the night.

“We had to regroup after losing three guys to injuries the night before, so we had to settle in and they came out and got some early shots, but after that I thought we did what we had to do to take over the game,” Hershey head coach Scott Allen said. “The tell tale is they (the Pens) had just nine shots between the second and third periods, while Shane Gersich had eight, which is pretty impressive for him.”

The Bears used a five-on-three power play at 14:51 of the second period for a 2-0 lead, as Mike Vecchione roofed a shot from the left face-off circle past Pens goaltender Alex D’Orio.

In the third stanza, Gersich struck for a second time, at 15:04, to finish the scoring for the night. Morelli pushed the puck near the crease, and Gersich squeezed the second effort across the goal line for his eighth goal of the season.

Final shots on goal totaled 36-20 Bears. 

Gersich, despite scoring twice, was more interested in talking about his goaltender’s game saying, “Shep was unbelievable tonight, just like he has been in every game he has played for us. I played against him in college, and he was good then, so it’s nice to see him continue to do a good job here.”

Hershey finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the penalty kill.

Bears Notes:

This season, Hunter Shepard is 3-0-0 versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with a 0.67 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage, stopping 65-of-67 shots in his three games versus the Baby Pens. 

On Sunday, Hershey concluded its four games in five nights with a 3-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, much to the delight of 7,440 fans at Giant Center. With the victory, Hershey extended its home winning streak to five straight and improved its overall record to 18-10-2-1. 

Following a scoreless opening period, the Bears scored twice in the second, starting with defenseman Dylan McIlrath firing a shot from the left point past a screened Penguins goaltender Alex D’Orio at 7:06, for his third goal of the campaign.  

With just one second left in the period, Mike Vecchione made it a 2-0 lead. Shane Gersich centered a pass to the low-slot where Vecchione buried his fifth goal of the season at 19:59.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton started the final period with a quick strike, at the thirty second mark, by Mitch Reinke to cut the Pens’ deficit to 2-1 and eliminate Pheonix Copley’s shutout bid.

Hershey responded with a power-play goal by Garrett Pilon at 8:40 on a feed from Joe Snively to put the Bears up 3-1. The Penguins would not give up, and Radim Zohorna made it a 3-2 nail-biter with 2:27 remaining on a 6-on-4 power play chance.

Copley (9-6-2) finished the night stopping 26 of 28 Penguin shots to help Hershey claim the one-goal victory. 

The Bears finished 1-for-3 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill.

“Four games in five nights is not allowed in the American Hockey League, but unfortunately with the circumstances with COVID, teams have to find ways to make up games that were postponed, along with building availabilities,” said Allen. “We put a lot of thought and preparation into the days leading up to it, and I truly believe it paid off for our workouts and in several other areas. The guys took this very seriously and found a way to get it done.”

The Bears return to action on Wednesday against the Bridgeport Islanders at 7 P.M. at Giant Center.

Bears Notes:

The Chocolate and White are now 7-0-0-0 versus the Baby Pens, marking the first time in franchise history the Bears have won the first seven games of the season series. The Bearshave outscored Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 31-10 this year, including 20-6 in four games at Giant Center.

Atlantic Division leader Springfield (46 GP, 18-9-2-1) has 50 points with a .650 win percentage. Second-place Hershey (45 GP, 18-10-2-1) also has 39 points with a .629 win percentage.

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