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BY CATHERINE RAY

Last season was not a memorable one for Hershey Bears forward Dustin Gazley. As an AHL-only contract player, Gazley, who is one of the fastest guys on Hershey’s roster, was a healthy scratch as players who were Washington Capitals prospects got the nods from head coach Troy Mann early on.

Then, in his first game in the line-up, Gazley suffered a serious injury that had him out until the spring. In all, he appeared in just three regular season games for the Bears, but was healthy enough to make 12 appearances in the postseason.

This year, Gazley is off to an explosive start, almost as if he wants to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. In Wednesday night’s AHL pre-season opener in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Gazley notched two goals and added an assist as the Bears impressed, against last year’s Atlantic Division champs.

img_3192Say what you will about pre-season games and the Penguins not being at full strength, remember, the Bears do not have all of their players back from Washington either.

Guys like Travis Boyd, Zach Sill, Liam O’Brien, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey, Tyler Lewington, and Pheonix Copley all are still in Washington fighting to earn a spot on the NHL team’s roster for opening night. Invariably, most of them will likely end up in Hershey for at least part of the season.

So the fact that Hershey was able to put up five goals (Hampus Gustafsson, Jeremy Langlois, and Stephen Collins also scored for Hershey), while holding the Penguins to just one is kind of impressive. The defensive corps, already impressive without the big names still in D.C., held the Penguins to just 18 shots, and goalie Parker Milner, who will likely begin the year in South Carolina, the ECHL affiliate of the Capitals and Bears, corralled all but one.

Just how good this team will be is unclear, but if they are equally as impressive at home Saturday night against the Penguins, it will create quite a buzz at the Giant Center, and build some momentum heading into another season in a loaded Atlantic Division.

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