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BY DON SCOTT

The Hershey Bears defeated the Hartford Wolf Pack 5-0 on Saturday nigh, and in the process surpassed a record they set three years ago. The sell-out crowd of 10,514 fans at Giant Center saw a new world record of 52,341 stuffed animals tossed on the ice, as well as the initial AHL hat trick for Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, in the annual Teddy Bear Toss game.

Jonsson-Fjaalby neeted his first goal at 6:13 of the opening period. Jonsson-Fjallby’s 11th goal of the year was not only the eventual game-winner, but it caused the release of the stuffed animals that erased the previous record of 46,785 set in 2019 by Hershey.

Shane Gersich and Alex Alexeyev had the assists on the record setting tally.

“The fact that thousands of kids are going to be happy is more important than a hockey game,” said Hershey head coach Scott Allen. “But it is a challenge to play the game after a significant stoppage of play, so we wanted to get that goal out of the way as quickly as possible and move on.”

As to what the guys did during that time, Allen said, “Some of them actually took all their gear off and some worked on stationary bikes, but we just wanted them to stay mentally engaged, so when we went back out we couldn’t risk not being ready to play on that next shift.”

After the lengthy delay for cleanup, the Bears did return to the ice and struck once more for a 2-0 edge. Brian Pinho notched his second goal of the season at 18:04, with the helpers going to Garrett Pilon and Joe Snively.

The middle stanza was scoreless, but the Chocolate and White scored three times in the third, when Hartford replaced starting goaltender Keith Kinkaid due to an apparent injury.

Snively beat Adam Huska on the first shot he faced on an unassisted effort only 23 seconds into the final stanza. Then Jonsson-Fjallby completed his hat-trick with goals at 3:11 and 13:06. Garrett Pilon finished the night with three assists and Snively had a goal and two assists.

Pheonix Copley stopped 23 shots for his second shutout of the season. Final shot totals were 36-23 Hershey. The Bears finished one-for-five on the power play and one-for-one on the penalty kill.

Bears Notes:

This year’s Giant Teddy Bear Toss was the 20th such event in team history. Last year, the Bears could not hold the Teddy Bear Toss in its traditional form due to COVID-19, but still collected 31,381 plush toys in a drive-through setting.

The Sweigart Family Foundation also made a donation of $50,000 to benefit Children’s Miracle Network.

On Dec. 1, 2019, Christian Djoos scored the first period goal that set a world record 45,650 stuffed animals flying to the ice.

In addition to two ties, Hershey has won six straight Teddy Bear Toss games, scoring four or more goals in each of those contests. 

The win for Pheonix Copley was his 80th, which puts him three behind Rollie Boutin’s 83m and his 11th Hershey shutout tied him with Philipp Grubauer and Vitek Vanececk for 7th on the all-time Hershey list.

In Sunday’s rematch between the Wolf Pack and the Bears, it was Hartford that never trailed. The Wolf Pack’s 3-2 win started with Tanner Fritz scoring at 7:08 of the opening period, for his fifth goal of the season.

Joe Snively’s 13th goal of the campaign, with the Bears on a power play, made it a 1-1 contest at 19:02.

Jonny Brodzinski regained the lead for the Wolf Pack at 5:36 of the middle stanza, but Hershey responded once more at 17:16, when Mike Vecchione beat Wolf Pack goaltender Adam Huska in tight, to head into the third stanza with the score tied at 2-2.

“It was a very disappointing game that saw them get five guys sent down from the New York Rangers overnight, and we were missing Cody Franson and Brian Pinho, two key guys who were injured in Saturday’s game, but we still limited them to just 19 shots,” Allen said. “To hold that team to 19 shots is a credit to our guys and to do some of the things we did, we should still be out there playing right now, or at the very least we should have gone to overtime, so that’s why it is very disappointing.”

Hartford scored the game-winner with only 2:46 remaining in regulation when Justin Richards redirected a point shot from Tarmo Reunanen past Hershey goaltender Zach Fucale.

Final shot totals were 26-19 Hershey. The Bears finished the night one-for-two on the power play and two-for-two on the penalty kill.

On Tuesday at Giant Center, the Bears are back in action against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for a game that was rescheduled due to a COVID19 postponement. Bridgeport returns to Giant Center on Saturday at 7 p.m., then Hershey hits the road for a Sunday 3 p.m. start against the Laval Rocket.

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