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BY DON SCOTT

A season-high Giant Center crowd of 9,386 fans watched the Hershey Bears start slow, but finish strong, in a 6-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday. It became an historic victory because it meant the Bears went 5-0-0-0 against the Penguins for the first time in club history, and it also closed the 2021 portion of their schedule.

The first 12-to-14 minutes of the tilt definitely favored the visiting Penguins, until Hershey turned things around and that resulted in a scoreless opening period that was followed by a season-high Hershey four-goal middle stanza.

Tobias Geisser started the scoring with his first career AHL goal at the 1:49 mark, with a shot from the left point that zipped past a screened Penguins goaltender Alex D’Orio. The Bears made it 2-0 on Marcus Vela’s first career AHL goal at 5:28. Ryan Dmowski sent a pass in the slot for Vela, who beat D’Orio for the eventual game-winning goal. 

As a part of a four-point game (1g, 3a), Mason Morelli gave Hershey a 3-0 lead with an unassisted goal at 7:21 when he slammed his own rebound into the net. Bobby Nardella closed out Hershey’s second-period scoring with another shot from the left point, at 19:29.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finally got on the board with 18 seconds remaining in the middle period when Jan Drozg beat Hunter Shepard, who finished with a 19 save outing, and improved to 2-1 for the Bears.

“The last six or seven minutes of the first period we did a lot of good things and continued to build on those good things as the night went on,” said Hershey coach Scott Allen. “We knew they only had five defensemen coming into the game so we wanted to wear them down, not by playing foolish, but by playing a certain way and that’s what we did.”

“I thought just having a day of practice yesterday, and it wasn’t long, but it was just a way to blend some of the new guys who have come in with our foundation guys and get to know how we want to play and they showed that tonight,” Allen added.

In the third period, Hershey’s Dylan McIlrath scored his second goal of the season at 5:13 with helpers from Shane Gersich and Morelli. Just 68 seconds later, Dmowski found the back of the net to extend his goal-scoring streak to five consecutive games. He finished the night with a goal and an assist.

When questioned about the Bears going 5-0-0-0 against the Penguins for the first time in franchise history, Allen replied, “It’s tough to make history for the Bears because there have been so many different things over the years, so it is certainly something to be proud of for this group.”

Final shots on goal were 34-20 Hershey. The Bears were held without a power play and went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. Hershey’s record improves to 14-9-2-1. 

The Bears return to action on Sunday, Jan. 2 when they host the Bridgeport Islanders for the first time this season. 

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