On Saturday, the Hershey Bears (28-8-4-1) scored a season-high seven goals in a 7-3 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (20-16-3-2) at PPL Center.
The win extended the Bears’ overall point streak to a season-high eight games at 6-0-2-0, pushed their road point- streak to a season-high seven games at 6-0-1-0, and improved the Chocolate and White to 7-0-0-0 against their I-78 rivals this season.
On Sunday, the Bears (28-9-4-1) saw a season-high eight-game point streak end in a 2-0 shutout loss to the Bridgeport Islanders (19-17-6-1) at Giant Center. Bridgeport goaltender Jakub Skarek made 39 saves in front of a Teddy Bear Toss sold-out crowd of 10,583.
Hershey struck at 7:55 of the first period on Saturday when Mike Sgarbossa skated up the left side, flipped the puck across to Ethen Frank at the right circle, and he sent a centering pass into the slot to Mike Vecchione for his 14th of the season.
Shane Gersich ended a 20-game goal drought at 11:05 when he tapped in a pass from Vincent Iorio from the right circle behind goalie Pat Nagle for his third tally of the season. Bobby Nardella also received an assist.
Gersich’s goal marked his 100th career AHL and Bears point.
The Bearsswitched from defense to offense to secure their third goal in the final minute of the opening stanza. Frank dug the puck out of the boards in the Hershey zone to lead a Bears breakout that Sgarbossa finished with a quick shot for his 15th of the season at 19:31 to make it 3-0. Logan Day had the secondary assist.
Garrett Pilon made it 4-0 1:49 into the second period when he one-timed a Connor McMichael feed past Nagle from the left circle for his sixth of the campaign, and his eighth point in his last eight games (4g, 4a).
Lehigh Valley’s Tyson Foerster was assessed a five-minute major for boarding Vincent Iorio at 6:55 and that resulted in the Bears surrendering a shorthanded goal, as Cal O’Reilly beat netminder Zach Fucale at 10:34 to get the Phantoms on the board.
Frank bagged his third point of the night 34 seconds into the third period on a breakaway that beat Nagle for his 19th of the season, tops among all AHL rookies. Vecchione and Day picked up assists on the goal.
Ronnie Attard answered for Lehigh Valley at 2:53.
Frank netted his second goal, and 20th of the season at 12:05, when he redirected Dylan McIlrath’s shot from the point home.
Jackson Cates scored for Lehigh Valley less than two minutes later at 14:03 to pull the Phantoms back to within three goals of Hershey.
Mason Morelli ended the scoring with his eighth of the season when he deflected McMichael’s point shot for a power-play goal at 16:46.
Shots finished 28-23 in favor of Hershey. The Bears were 1-for-2 on the power play; Lehigh Valley went 0-for-1 with the man advantage
The victory moved Hershey back into first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of idle Toronto and moved the Bears past Western Conference-leading Coachella Valley into first place overall in the American Hockey League.
Frank matched his career-high of four points. He also became the first Bears rookie to reach the 20-goal mark since Riley Barber (26) and Travis Boyd (21) achieved the feat in the 2015-16 season.
Mason Morelli is the only Bears skater to have played in every game this season. Morelli also holds the team’s active regular season ironman streak at 80 games, which began on Jan. 25, 2022.
In Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the visiting Bridgeport Islanders, Arnaud Durandeau scored a power-play goal for Bridgeport at 14:19 of the first period when he sent a rebound past goalie Hunter Shepard. Arnaud Durandeau and Andy Andreoff had the helpers.
Durandeau scored again with the man advantage at 3:02 of the second period when he hit the top corner of the net that banked off the mask of Shepard to make it 2-0. Durandeau had another assist along with Dennis Cholowski.
“I noticed our first few face-offs we were not competing because we are a pretty good face-off team but they were just not ready tonight against a team that is fighting for a playoff berth and they out worked us in the first to take control of the game,” Hershey coach Todd Nelson said. “Actually I had a funny feeling coming back from Lehigh Valley where we score seven goals that I hoped we didn’t waste all our goals in this one plus the PA guy announced the wrong starting lineup for us tonight.”
The Bearsoutshot the Islanders 12-5 in the third period, but could not solve Skarek. A stoppage in play with 5.4 seconds left in regulation resulted in fans commencing the GIANT Teddy Bear Toss; the game was ultimately called.
The final total of teddy bears and other stuffed animals collected set a new world record of 67,309 plush items.
Shots finished 39-21 in favor of Hershey. The Bears were 0-for-3 on the power play; Bridgeport finished 2-for-3 with the man advantage.
Hershey returns to Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 7:05 p.m. at PPL Center, then the Phantoms visit Giant Center on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.
The defeat was Hershey’s first to Bridgeport this season, and the first regulation loss for the Bears against the Islanders since Nov. 23, 2019, bringing an end to a 13-0-0-1 run.
Hershey had won six straight Teddy Bear Toss games, scoring four or more goals in each of those contests.
Since 2001, Hershey’s all-time record in Teddy Bear Toss games is 14-3-0-2. Two seasons there were no game due to Covid-19 restrictions.