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BY DON SCOTT

This weekend at Giant Center, the Hershey Bears swept all three of their home games, starting with a 4-3 overtime victory over the visiting Bridgeport Islanders on Friday and then dealing the Islanders another overtime loss, this time by a 4-3 score, on Saturday. Sunday it was a 60- minute 4-1 victory over the Laval Rocket in front of a season-high 9,965 fans.

On Friday, the Islanders opened the scoring on their first shot of the game at 1:45, when Hudson Fasching broke in on a 2-on-1 and beat Zach Fucale to give Bridgeport a 1-0 lead.

The Bears pulled even at 8:02 when Lucas Johansen broke up a play at the Hershey blue line and fed Shane Gersich, who found Ethen Frank for a partial breakaway. The rookie beat netminder Jakub Skarek with a shot to the upper-right corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season, and it also extended Frank’s goal-scoring streak to five games.

Fasching scored again at 2:12 of the second to put the visitors up 2-1.

Kale Kessy made it 2-2 late in the period after Skarek stopped a shot by Vincent Iorio from the left point. But Kessy controlled the rebound and backhanded the puck underneath the sprawled goaltender for his first of the season. Riley Sutter had the secondary assist on the goal.

Hershey took its first lead in the third period when Frank worked the puck into the offensive zone and found Hendrix Lapierre behind the Islanders net and fed Shane Gersich in the slot, allowing him to fire the puck inside the left post at 5:54.

Kyle McLean made it a 3-3 contest at 9:44 to send the game into overtime, when he shoveled a turnover past Fucale.

Iorio’s first career goal became the game-winner when he cut across the high slot and fired a wrist shot that beat a screened Skarek at 2:01. Mason Morelli and Sam Anas assisted on the goal.

“I thought we were a little inconsistent tonight at times but the third period was better, but we really didn’t have a good start and the second period wasn’t that great either,” Hershey head coach Todd Nelson said in his post-game comments. “I thought our fourth line was the most consistent one for us by setting the tone for us.”

Shots finished 36-32 favoring the Bears. Fucale finished the night 29-for-32 on saves for the Bears, while Skarek was 32-for-36. Hershey was 0-for-2 on the power play, and Bridgeport went 0-for-1.

Bears Notes:

Hershey extended its season-opening point streak on home ice to six games (5-0-1-0) with its 4-3 overtime victory over Bridgeport.

Hershey’s last home three-in-three came during the 2010-11 season. Hershey hosted Albany on Jan. 21 (8-3 W), Rochester on Jan. 22 (5-1 W) and Adirondack on Jan. 23 (5-1 W) at Giant Center. In the win over Albany, current Hershey assistant coach Patrick Wellar had the best game of his AHL career, collecting four points (1g, 3a).

Dating back to 2019, Hershey has a 13-game point streak versus Bridgeport (11-0-0-2).

According to the AHL, it was Hershey’s fifth all-time home three-in-three. The Bears went 5-0-0-1 against Bridgeport last season, and in the past five seasons, Hershey has now posted a cumulative 16-7-0-2 record against the Islanders/Sound Tigers franchise.  

In Saturday’s tilt, Sam Anas was the Hershey hero when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Bears (7-2-2-0) battled to a 2-1 victory over Bridgeport (7-2-3-0),completing a two-game weekend sweep of their Atlantic Division rival. The victory extended Hershey’s unbeaten streak at home to start the season to seven games (6-0-1-0).

The first period was scoreless, despite Hershey’s three shots on goal by Anas, who came within inches of giving Hershey a lead while on the power play, when his attempt came to rest on the Bridgeport goal line before being knocked away.

Both teams failed to find the net in the second frame, then the Islanders broke through at 3:34 of the third period when Vincent Sevigny fired a shot from the left circle that beat Hunter Shepard to put the visitors up 1-0.

Hendrix Lapierre tied the game for Hershey when a centering attempt from Shane Gersich along the half-boards became lost in the skates of a Bridgeport defender. Lapierre managed to find the loose puck and sent a shot through the legs of Schneider at 8:09 for his second goal of the season. Ethen Frank earned the secondary assist on the goal, extending his point streak to six games (5g, 2a).

With the game tied at the end of regulation, the Bears went on the power play 1:58 into overtime, and with Hershey on a 4-on-3 man advantage, Anas beat Schneider with a wrist shot from the right circle at 2:46. Aaron Ness and Mike Vecchione had the assists on the game-winning tally.

“Obviously three games in three days means there is light at the end of the tunnel for the guys to come to the game tomorrow to finish this home stand on the right foot and prepare for next weekend’s three-in-three again,” Hershey coach Todd Nelson said.

Shots finished 32-28 favoring the Bears. Shepard turned away 27 of the 28 shots he faced for Hershey, while Schneider was 30-for-32. The Bears were 1-for-4 on the power play, while Bridgeport went 0-for-5.

On Sunday, it was Hendrix Lapierre who led the way with a goal and an assist in the first period that ended in a 4-1 Hershey victory over the Laval Rocket. The victory extended Hershey’s unbeaten streak at home to start the season to eight games (7-0-1-0), and gave the Bears their sixth straight win.

Lapierre scored at 6:48 of the first when he picked the puck up behind the Laval net and curled around the cage to the face-off dot at the right circle to beat goaltender Kevin Poulin with a wrist shot for his third goal of the season, and his fourth straight game with at least a point (2g, 4a). Shane Gersich and Gabriel Carlsson had the assists with Gersich’s helper extending his point streak to four games (2g, 3a).

Bobby Nardella made it 2-0 for the Bears with a power-play goal at 14:30 when he one-timed a pass from Lapierre past Poulin for his second tally of the season. Mason Morelli earned a secondary assist on the goal.

The Bears made it 3-0 in the second period when Morelli skated up the left wing into the Laval zone, passed the puck to Carlsson who found Sam Anas for a backhanded shot at 18:01, for his third of the season and second consecutive game with a goal.

Anthony Richard spoiled the shutout bid for Zach Fucale (6-2-0-0) at 4:36 of the third period when he snapped a shot past the goaltender from the right circle.

“This was very important for us to come together as a team and figure out how we play well and what works for us,” said Morelli. “But there still are things for us to clean up, but to get six points for the weekend is good and we hope to build on that.

“You have to give them credit for coming fast and hard in the third period, because once they got a goal they were flying so we had to do our best to stop them and reel them in,” added Morelli.

Henrik Rybinski hit an empty-net at 17:24 to seal the game for Hershey. Garrett Pilon and Henrik Borgstrom had the assists.

Shots finished 27-26 favoring the Bears. The Bears were 1-for-3 on the power play, while Laval went 0-for-6.

The Bears visit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday then return home to GIANTCenter to host the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday and Sunday.

*** For a chance to win two free tickets to an upcoming Bears’ home game, email your name, email address, home address and phone number to  dscottsports@comcast.net to be entered in a random drawing. A drawing for two tickets will take place each week. You must send a separate email to enter each week of the season. Previous winners will not be considered.

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