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BY DON SCOTT

The Hershey Bears fell behind 1-0, then took a 3-1 lead before the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-21-3-3) pulled even to send the game into overtime, but Hershey eventually emerged with a 4-3 shhotout victory on Saturday in front of a Giant Center sellout crowd of 10,524.

On Sunday, Hershey scored first but the Belleville Senators regrouped to take a 3-1 lead that ended in a 4-2 Hershey loss in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,597 on Sunday at Giant Center.

Hershey got goals from Riley Sutter, Garrett Pilon, and Mike Sgarbossa in regulation, and Henrik Borgstrom connected on the shootout-winner in Saturday’s 4-3 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The win moved Hershey to within one point of the Providence Bruins who lead the Atlantic Division.

The Phantoms took a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 16:18 when Garrett Wilson grabbed the puck during a scramble at the Hershey net and fed it over to Tyson Foerster, who fired it past goaltender Zach Fucale.

The Bears did not get a shot on goal in the first 10 minutes and finished with just two for the opening period.

Sutter tied it seven minutes into the second stanza when Joe Snively sent a pass from the left circle to the far post and Sutter tapped home his fourth of the season. Bobby Nardella earned the secondary assist.

Bobby Brink was awarded a penalty shot at 8:15 when he picked up a loose puck at center ice and raced in on a breakaway, only to be knocked off the puck by a slash from Logan Day. On the penalty shot, Brink attempted to snap a low shot through the pads of Hershey netminder Fucale, but the goaltender closed the five hole to deny him. With the save, Fucale improved to 2-for-2 on penalty shots this season.

The Bears took a 2-1 lead at 13:38 when Hendrix Lapierre fed a trailing Pilon and he nailed his seventh of the season, with Mason Morelli collecting the assist.

In the third period, Sgarbossa struck at 33 seconds when Mike Vecchione batted Ethen Frank’s rebound out of mid-air over to Sgarbossa, who tallied his 18th of the season to make it 3-1.

The Phantoms answered at 5:34 on Wyatte Wylie’s wrist shot from the blue line that eluded the glove of Fucale to make it a one-goal contest.

Lehigh Valley made it a 3-3 game when Hayden Hodgson slipped through the defense on the rush and beat Fucale at 10:37.

In Hershey’s sixth shootout of the season, the Bears elected to shoot second. Snively put Hershey up in the bottom of the second round, Foerster tied it for the Phantoms in the third, and then Sgarbossa was denied to set up what would be the decisive fourth round. Artem Anisimov missed on his opportunity, then Borgstrom beat Maier to win the game for Hershey.

Riley Sutter’s post-game comments on the unusual game were, “It was a little slow to start because we hadn’t played in a week and we were trying to keep things simple, but we got better as the game went on and it was huge for us to get on the board early in the second period to get some momentum on our side.”

Then added, “You don’t usually see a penalty shot, a goal disallowed on a high stick call, overtime and a shootout in one game but Zach Fucale made a lot of big stops for us and that was why we won and got the two points which is what we wanted.”

Shots finished 28-28. Fucale’s 16th victory of the season matched his previous AHL single-season high. The Bears were 0-for-3 on the power play; the Phantoms finished 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Bears Notes:

The Washington Capitals announced Friday that forward Aliaksei Protas has been recalled from Hershey. 

The Bears (32-13-5-2) took a 1-0 lead in the first period, but a two-goal outing by Egor Sokolov led to a 4-2 loss to the Belleville Senators on Sunday afternoon at Giant Center.

The Bears opened the scoring early in the first period when Beck Malenstyn deflected Vincent Iorio’s shot from the right point past Kevin Mandolese at 3:19 for his fifth of the season. Shane Gersich earned a secondary assist.

Sokolov tied it for the Senators at 7:04 when his shot from the right side bounced off the glass behind the Hershey net and allowed Sokolov to stash his own rebound past Bears goalie Hunter Shepard.

Jake Lucchini then put Belleville ahead in the second period with a shorthanded goal when he deked around Connor McMichael and slid the puck through the legs of Shepard at 14:35 to make it 2-1.

Cole Reinhardt scored a power-play goal at 17:01 of the third period to extend Belleville’s lead to 3-1.

Late in the period, the Bears pulled Shepard for an extra skater and converted at 18:04, when Mike Vecchione buried a Joe Snively rebound past Mandolese for his 17th of the season. Mason Morelli gained the secondary helper on Vecchione’s goal.

Hershey suffered a setback when a penalty assessed ten seconds later put them down a man. In an attempt to close the gap, the Bears once again pulled Shepard, but this time Sokolov put the game away with an empty-net tally at 19:20.

“We got off to a really good start, but then there was a bad bounce and they scored to tie it and then it became a penalty filled game, but you have to give them credit for their penalty kills despite the chances we had,” Hershey coach Todd Nelson said. “I have to keep my composure, but tonight some emotion came out. Overall we have to compete more consistently and play through the clutching and grabbing, because that’s the way it’s going to be in the playoffs.”

Shots finished even at 27-27. The Bears were 0-for-5 on the power play; the Senators finished 2-for-7 with the man advantage.

Hershey continues the 2022-23 season when the Chocolate and White host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday, March 1 at 7 p.m.

Bears Notes:

Hershey split its regular season series with Belleville with a 1-1-0-0 record.

Belleville goaltending coach Justin Peters played for Hershey in 2015-16, leading the Bears to the 2016 Calder Cup Finals. The Senators have been ravaged by injuries using 46 different players this season, including seven different goaltenders.

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