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BY DON SCOTT

The Hershey Bears started the weekend with a 4-1 road loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. But Hershey then returned home and finished it with a pair of wins over the Springfield Thunderbirds, 5-2 on Saturday and 3-2 in overtime on Sunday in Giant Center.

Friday’s game at the PPL Center remained scoreless until Lehigh Valley scored at 5:39 of the middle period. Isaac Ratcliffe scored his ninth goal with Hayden Hodgson and Egor Zamula collecting the helpers.

Mike Vecchione’s shot midway through the period from the right-wing on the man-advantage was his 14th goal of the season. Bobby Nardella and Cody Franson had the assists. 

Later in the second period, the Phantoms struck twice, just 50 seconds apart, to take a 3-1 lead.

Adam Clendening found Wade Allison on a headman pass through neutral ice. On a short breakaway, Allison slid the puck through Zach Fucale’s five-hole for the eventual game-winner at 18:35. Tanner Laczynski added an insurance power play goal at 19:25 on a one-timer from the right face-off circle.

Cal O’Reilly completed the scoring at 17:51 of the third period when Fucale was pulled for an extra skater for the 4-1 final. Final shots totaled 32-27 Bears. 

Hershey’s special teams finished 1-for-4 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.

Bears Notes:

The Bears are now 0-5-0-0 at the PPL Center this season and 5-6-0-0 overall versus Lehigh Valley.

On Saturday, the Bears returned to Giant Center for the first time since March 23 and scored a decisive 5-2 victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds.

Springfield took an early 1-0 lead in the opening frame, but the Bears manufactured a quick response. Keean Washkurak netted his 12th goal of the season for Springfield at 7:47, after a shot glanced off the iron and behind Bears’ goalie Pheonix Copley. At the 8:41 mark, Dylan McIlrath’s blast sailed past Springfield netminder Charlie Lindgren to make it 1-1.

The Bears took a 2-1 lead at 15:42 when Aliaksei Protas tallied his seventh goal of the season on a stuff attempt from the side of the net. Mike Vecchione and Brett Leason earned the helpers.

In the second period, both teams scored once, giving Hershey a 3-2 lead going into the third period.

At 13:26, Garrett Pilon and Shane Gersich were rewarded following a hard fore-check and Pilon found Gersich at the backdoor for his 13th goal of the season. Nathan Todd countered for the Thunderbirds at 17:04, firing a shot from the left face-off circle.

“The margin of error is very slim for our team, and that’s fine,” said Hershey head coach Scott Allen, |but you still need to find ways to win with who you are and what you are, and that’s what we had to do tonight.

“Discipline is a big factor, especially at this time of year as we get closer to the playoffs and games do get officiated differently, and I don’t say that in a disrespectful manner, but rather in a very respectful way,” Allen added. “The officials don’t want to impact players in regards to the game. They want the teams to work out who will win and who loses.”

Hershey had a strong third period, scoring twice to complete the 5-2 victory.

Mike Vecchione scored his 15th goal at 3:57, and Cody Franson closed out the scoring at 16:14 with the Bears on a 5-on-3 power play.

Final shots totaled 31-27 Hershey. The Bears power play was 1-for-3 in addition to a 1-for-2 night on the penalty kill. 

On Sunday, Hershey needed just 36 seconds to take a 1-0 lead over Springfield, as Cody Franson found an open Shane Gersich at the backdoor for the quick strike. Garrett Pilon had the secondary helper for his 22nd assist of the season.

A key stop by Zach Fucale turned into a 2-0 lead when Pilon earned his second assist by setting up Mason Morelli along the right wing at 15:42.

Springfield chipped away at its deficit, making it 2-1 at 6:18, when Hugh McGing cashed in for his 14th goal of the season. The Thunderbirds tied the score at 2-2 with 4:33 remaining in regulation on Brady Lyle’s fourth goal of the campaign.

“When you get familiar with a team and play them in succession, both teams will look for the other team’s strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments,” said Allen. “We both did that and that is why it was such a tight game, because it could have gone either way.”

In the sudden-death overtime, Morelli handled a pass from Gersich and connected for his 11th goal of the season for the game-winner at 2:04.

“Sometimes when we score early in the game it doesn’t hold for us, but it did today and I liked that and the fact we went up 2-0 against a good team that came back and found a way to tie it up, but we held tight down the stretch to get a fantastic goal from Mason Morelli for the win,” said Allen.

Hershey finished the night 0-for-3 on the power play and a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. 

The Bears return to action on Wednesday, Apr. 13 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center.

Bears Notes:

The Bears finished 4-0-2-0 versus Springfield, the Atlantic Division leader prior to the start of the game.

The Chocolate and White have won five straight games on home ice, and overall is 21-9-3-3 at Giant Center this season, outscoring opponents 111-85.

The fastest goal to start a game for the Bears is eight seconds on December 31, 2007, against Philadelphia.

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