The Hershey Bears ((29-10-4-1) returned to the win column on Friday with a 4-1 road victory over the Bridgeport Islanders (19-18-6-1) at Total Mortgage Arena.
Then in Saturday’s game at Giant Center, Hershey took a 1-0 lead in the opening period but the visiting Lehigh Valley Phantoms scored five times to claim a 5-1 victory.
On Friday, Hershey and Bridgeport skated through a scoreless 20 minutes first period despite Hershey’s 9-2 shot advantage – the two shots against matched the fewest allowed in a period this season.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead early into the second period when Mason Morelli’s shot rebounded off the pads of goalie Jakub Skarek and Sutter knocked in his third of the season just 25 seconds into the middle frame, as Gabriel Carlsson collected the secondary assist. For Sutter, the goal snapped a 37-game goal drought.
McMichael put the Bears up 2-0 when he drove the lane and redirected Garrett Pilon’s pass behind Skarek for his 11th of the season at 6:52. Joe Snively picked up the secondary helper.
The Islanders got on the board with a shorthanded goal at 8:25 when Kyle MacLean was stopped by Hershey goalie Hunter Shepard on a breakaway, but Chris Terry deposited the rebound past the Hershey net minder.
Ethen Frank countered several moments later on a subsequent power play when he took possession at the left circle and snapped the puck low off the far post and into the cage for his 21st of the season at 11:37, from McMichael and Mike Vecchione.
Sutter collected his second point of the night in the third period when he assisted on a Beck Malenstyn goal. Sutter fished the puck out of the left corner and sent it back to Aaron Ness, whose shot from the point was tipped by Malenstyn into the net for his fourth of the season at 9:14.
It was Sutter’s fifth career multi-point game and his first since Feb. 5, 2022, at Cleveland.
Shots finished 30-21 in favor of the Bears. The Bears were 1-for-5 on the power play; Bridgeport finished 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
Hershey head coach Todd Nelson will miss the Friday and Saturday games due to personal reasons. All is well with Nelson who will return to the team following the AHL All-Star Classic.
In Saturday’s contest with the visiting Lehigh Valley Phantoms (22-17-3-2), Aliaksei Protas scored the only goal for Hershey, while Jackson Cates found the net twice and Bobby Brink put up three points for the visitors which ended in a 5-1 Phantoms win.
The first period was a typical Keystone State clash between Hershey and Lehigh Valley, when a drive to the net by the Phantoms led to a skirmish involving several players at 13:45 that resulted in a handful of penalties being assessed that gave the Bears a man advantage.
Hershey scored on the power play when Mike Sgarbossa whipped the puck across the slot to Ethen Frank whose shot rebounded off the pads of goaltender Samuel Ersson. Aliaksei Protas grabbed the rebound and backhanded a shot home for his second of the season at 14:13.
The Phantoms tied the score at 1-1 early in the second period when Max Willman fed Cates in the slot from behind the goal line to beat Hunter Shepard at 2:21.
Lehigh Valley took a 2-1 lead at 8:16 during a 5-on-3 man advantage when Tyson Foerster snapped a shot from the high slot past Shepard as the screened goaltender was sliding across.
The Phantoms took a 3-1 lead at 2:55 of the third stanza on Jordy Bellerive’s wrist shot from the left side that deflected off the post into the net.
Brink added a power-play goal at 16:49 and Cates capped the scoring with a shorthanded empty-netter at 19:44.
“They made some adjustments since the Wednesday game and deserved to win,” said Hershey assistant coach Patrick Wellar.
Shots finished 29-23 in favor of the Phantoms. The Bears were 1-for-4 on the power play; the Phantoms finished 2-for-3 with the man advantage.
Following the All-Star break, Hershey will visit the Utica Comets at the Adirondack Bank Center on Friday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. The Bears return to Giant Center on Saturday to host the Hartford Wolf Pack at 7 p.m. for PSECU Knit Cap Night, featuring a Bears knit cap for the first 4,000 fans in attendance.
The Bears head into the AHL All-Star break atop the Atlantic Division standings and second overall in the AHL.
This was the tenth of 14 meetings between the Bears and Phantoms, and it’s the fifth time the two clubs have met in the last week and a half. Hershey has an impressive 7-3-0-0 record versus Lehigh Valley.
The Bears are 19-8-3-0 on home ice versus the Phantoms over the last five years.