By Don Scott
Photos Courtesy of Hershey Bears/Caroline O’Connor
Hershey rookie Brett Leason finished a three-point outing Sunday with an overtime game-winning tally for his first pro goal, one that caused 45,650 stuffed animals to be tossed onto the Giant Center ice in the Bears 4-3 victory over the Hartford Wolfpack. The stuffed-animal total surpassed the club’s previous world record of 34,798 collected in 2018.
Christian Djoos slammed a rebound of Joe Snively’s shot past Hartford goaltender Adam Huska 8:11 into the contest. Following a 30 minute delay for cleanup, the teams returned to the ice and completed the opening stanza. Before both teams broke for the first intermission Hartford’s Steven Fogarty tied the game at 11:35 on a power-play goal.
“It was really important to get that first goal out of the way because the longer it goes the more uncomfortable it gets and I’ve been in some of those before,” Bears coach Spencer Carberry said. “We got that out of the way early and then we were able to focus on getting the win. The delay took some wind out of our sails but we were able to eventually get back on track.”
“Usually the experienced guys are out in the overtime but here Leason was 20 games into the season without a goal and I decided to send him out and he made me look real good,” added Carberry.
Vincent LoVerde scored Hartford’s second power play of the night at 7:37 of the middle period, then at 15:16 Shane Gersich netted his third goal of the season on the rebound of a Liam O’Brien shot.
Five minutes into the third session Beck Malenstyn gave the Bears a 3-2 lead when he controlled a loose puck in the low slot for his fourth goal of the year. Hartford tied the game at 17:57 on Fogarty’s second goal of the night with both teams skating 4-on-4, to force overtime.
Djoos sent a head-man pass to Leason, who buried his own rebound sitting in the crease at 2:21 of the extra frame for his first pro goal and the overtime winner.
“I was just happy to score to get the Bear Toss out of the way and eventually get the two points for us,” said Djoos. “After they got two power-play goals, we shut them down because we have a good plan and stopped any opportunities they had. This was a big game for us because we really needed the two points.”
Hershey finished the night leading in shots, 37-29. Special teams finished 0-for-5 on the power play and 7-for-9 on the penalty kill .
The earliest into a game Teddy Bears were sent flying was :39 on Dec. 7, 2014, by Steve Oleksy. The latest the goal has been scored was Liam O’Brien’s goal on Dec. 3, 2017, at 13:27 of the second period. Maxime Lacroix is the only Bears player to ever score the CommunityAid Teddy Bear Toss goal more than once doing it in 2008 and 2010.
The Bears return to action on Friday, Dec. 6 with a 7:05 P.M. road trip to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms then host the Phantoms Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday.