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BY DON SCOTT

On Saturday, another Giant Center sell-out crowd was treated to a scoreless AHL game, until the third period when the Bridgeport Islanders took a 1-0 lead at 7:08. But that advantage lasted about two minutes, before concluding at 2:47 of the overtime period, with a 2-1 Hershey victory.

The Islanders’ Thomas Hickey scored his third goal of the campaign with a blast low to the ice past Pheonix Copley. It was the only blemish for the Hershey netminder, who was at the top of his game with 26 stops on 27 Islanders shots. 

Less than two minutes later, the Bears pulled even on a power-play strike. Felix Bibeau was called for tripping at 7:52, and Shane Gersich unloaded a shot from the right face-off circle at 9:11, before the man-advantage ended.

Jake Massie recorded the primary helper for his first point as a member of the Chocolate and White.

“That might have been our best win of the season, all things considered,” Hershey head coach Scott Allen said. “We started and ended the game with a different lineup. We lost three guys to injuries, but fortunately Pheonix Copley was unbelievable and kept us in the game, and gave us a chance with a tremendous gutsy performance.”

Key stops by Copley down the stretch sent the 1-1 game into overtime. That’s when a power move to the net by Massie drew a tripping minor on Arnaud Durandeau, and it took Hershey just 12 seconds to score the game winner.

Following the face-off win, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby set up a blast from Mike Vecchione, for his seventh goal of the season, and the Bears’ seventh overtime victory. 

When questioned about the injury status of the three players, Mike Sgarbossa, Garrett Pilon and Alex Alexeyev, Allen replied, “I would say they are more than day-by-day unfortunately, but that’s all I know.”

The Bears finished the night two-for-five on the power play and three-for-three on the penalty kill. Final shots totaled 35-27 Hershey.

Bears Notes:

Since the calendar turned to 2022, eight out of Hershey’s 12 games have been decided by one goal. The Bears are 10-4-3-2 in games decided by one goal this season.

Copley won his 82nd game as a Hershey Bear, one shy of Rollie Boutin who is sixth all-time for the franchise. He has allowed two goals or less in 12 of his 21 appearances.

Hershey signed defenseman Tariq Hammond to a professional tryout agreement. He has appeared in four games with the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights, posting one assist, and has also played 56 career AHL games with Binghamton and Henderson posting five points (1g, 4a).  

On Sunday, the Bears were not as fortunate, as they dropped a 3-2 road decision at Lehigh Valley, when Linus Sandin scored the game-winner at 14:26 of the third period.

Cal O’Reilly scored his first of two shorthanded goals to give the Phantoms a 1-0 edge on a defensive zone turnover. O’Reilly was setup by Charlie Gerard from point-blank range and he didn’t miss.

Mike Vecchione, Saturday’s overtime hero, brought the Bears even at 17:56 in the second frame. On a power play, Vecchione whipped a shot past Phantoms goaltender Felix Sandstrom with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Lucas Johansen getting the assists.

The Bears took an early-third-period lead on Vecchione’s second of the night, as he redirected a point shot from Johansen home, with Brian Pinho earning the secondary assist. 

Lehigh Valley tied the game on O’Reilly’s second shorthanded goal of the night, at 12:14. Winning a race to a loose puck, O’Reilly roofed a forehand-backhand shot past Hershey goaltender Zach Fucale.

Linus Sandin scored the game-winner at 14:26 on a rebound attempt to give the Phantoms the 3-2 victory.

Final shots on goal were 28-22 Hershey. The Bears finished one-for-five on the power play and two-for-two on the penalty kill.

Bears Notes:

Hershey is 20-9-1-1 against Atlantic Division opponents this season.

The Bears return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 2 against the Hartford Wolf Pack at Giant Center. All fans will receive a Hersheypark ticket, valid for one-day admission through June 30, 2022.

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