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The Hershey Bears opened the franchise’s 85th American Hockey League season with a pair of victories this weekend, over the visiting Utica Comets and Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the Giant Center.

In Saturday’s season opener, Henrik Borgstrom scored Hershey’s first goal of the campaign at 8:42 of the first period when he shoved Hendrix Lapierre’s blocked shot into the back of the net for a power-play goal to take a 1-0 lead. Mason Morelli picked up the initial assist.

Mike Vecchione made it 2-0 when he knocked a Garrett Pilon rebound past Utica goalie Akira Schmid at 17:42 of the opening period, with Mike Sgarbossa providing the secondary helper. 

Utica answered with a power-play goal 24 seconds into the second period when former Bears forward Brian Pinho buried a chance in front of the net to make it 2-1.

The only goal the rest of the contest came on Riley Sutter’s empty-net tally at 19:30 of the third period that sealed the win for Hershey. Morelli added the only helper, for his second assist of the night.

“I thought in the first period we came out strong and got the two goals and then they got momentum from the power play in the second and won more puck battles and faceoffs,” said Hershey’s new head coach, Todd Nelson “The important thing is we had some important kills in the third period.”

Bears goaltender Zach Fucale made several outstanding glove saves in the win, stopping 19-of-20 shots. Shots favored the Bears 23-20 with Hershey 1-for-2 on the power play while Utica was 1-for-4.

In Sunday’s contest, Hendrix Lapierre scored his first AHL goal and Mike Sgarbossa broke a 1-1 tie with a third period power-play goal to give the Bears a 2-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Lapierre scored at 16:04 of the first period when he fired a wrist shot past a screened Samuel Ersson. Gabriel Carlsson and Vincent Iorio had the assists, and for Iorio, it was first professional point.

In the second period, Elliot Desnoyers tied it for the Phantoms when he got loose on a partial breakaway to beat Zach Fucale at 6:41 and make it 1-1.

Hershey regained the lead with a power-play goal by Sgarbossa at 9:23 of the third period when he deflected Garret Pilon’s shot for a 2-1 edge. Mike Vecchione started the play that became the game-winner.

Fucale stopped 14 of 15 shots to earn his second consecutive win to start the season, and record his 50th career AHL victory overall.

“To be honest with you, the result was good, but it was a very hard game to stay focused on because you don’t get a lot of action for long periods of time, plus there was contact on me so that’s what makes games like this tough ones,” said Fucale. “What that does is raise the stakes on every shot you get because every angle shot you face is very important.”

Hershey was 1-for-5 on the power play, while Lehigh Valley was 0-for-2.
The Bears go on a three-game road trip that starts in Charlotte on Friday, Oct. 21.

** For a chance to win two free tickets to an upcoming Bears’ home game, email your name, email address, home address and phone number to dscottsports@comcast.net to be entered in a random drawing. A drawing for two tickets will take place each week. You must send a separate email to enter each week of the season. Previous winners will not be considered.

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