On Saturday night at Giant Center, the Hershey Bears returned from a four-game road trip where they picked up three wins, to take on the struggling Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who used goaltender Jean-Francois Berube, in an 18- save effort, for his third shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory.
The good news was Hartford was also blanked, 2-0 by Springfield, to keep the two teams tied with 61 points at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Lehigh Valley’s Chris Stewart scored his first of the season when he tipped a shot by Maksim Sushko from the right point past Vitek Vanecek, just 4:11 into the game for what turned out to be the game-winner.
“It was a very disappointing, lackluster, whatever you want to call it, effort,” Hershey coach Spencer Carberry said in his post-game talk. “We have tendencies at certain times to think that things will come easy for us and that’s what you saw tonight. In the first twenty minutes, it was laughable watching us struggle to stick handle.
“We have to play a certain way every night and if it isn’t that way you’ll see what you saw tonight, maybe not to that degree,” continued Carberry. “It takes every single guy, not just two or three and that’s what happened tonight. We have a level that has to be met and when it is not we won’t have success.”
The middle stanza was scoreless, then in the third period, Lehigh Valley scored the insurance marker.
David Kase forced a turnover and scored unassisted at 17:43 beating Vanecek to the glove side. Mikhail Vorobyev found the Bears’ empty net at 18:19 to close out the 3-0 game.
The Bears went into the game having dominated the Phantoms going 6-0-1-0 and having won five straight games against them. Vanecek suffered his initial loss after going 5-0-0 versus the Phantoms.
Hershey is idle until Friday at 7 p.m. in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Saturday Springfield visits Giant Center for a 7 p.m. start, then the Bears head to Lehigh Valley for a 5 p.m. Sunday tilt to close out the three-games-in-three days weekend.