This weekend, the Hershey Bears hit the road for the first time this season for a pair of games in Charlotte. In the first tilt on Friday night, the Checkers claimed a 5-3 decision, but the Bears skated to a 2-1 overtime victory on Saturday.
The Bears scored first in Friday’s match, for the third straight game, using a two-on-one rush at 5:28 of the opening period, when Aliaksei Protas recorded his first goal of the season. But Charlotte’s Alexander True and Max McCormick gave the Checkers a 2-1 lead before the first period ended.
The Bears tallied twice on the power play in the middle stanza, using a five-on-three goal from Mike Sgarbossa at 9:42, and a Garrett Pilon goal at 13:47 to take a 3-2 lead.
Charlotte rallied to tie the game less than two minutes later, and despite being outshot 9-3 in the third period, the Checkers scored twice to claim the victory.
McCormick’s second goal of the game came at 15:14 and proved to be the game-winner. He was left wide open at the net, after Hershey goalie Pheonix Copley mishandled a bouncing puck. With Copley out of position, True found McCormick for the go-ahead goal, then Matt Kiersted fired his first professional goal into an empty net at 18:59 for the 5-3 final.
Hershey went two-for-six on the power play and was four-for-four on the penalty kill.
Saturday’s contest started with a fight 1:04 into the game, one that became a goaltender’s duel the rest of the way, until Lucas Johansen secured Hershey’s 2-1 victory with :23 left in overtime.
After a scoreless first period, Charlotte’s Logan Hutsko scored at the 4:20 mark of the middle period, flipping a shot over the shoulder of Zach Fucale for his first career AHL goal.
In the third period, Garrett Pilon tied the score for Hershey at 12:48. From the low-slot, Pilon converted his third goal of the season with a blooper of a shot over Charlotte goaltender Antoine Bibeau.
That set the stage for Johansen’s sudden-death overtime winner at 4:37.
Final shots on goal totaled 28-26 Checkers. The Bears finished the evening 0-for-three on the power play and a perfect three-for-three on the penalty kill.
Fucale made 27 saves to record his 100th professional win (61 ECHL-39 AHL). He’s won 10 of his 12 games with Hershey, and dating back to last season, has won his past five appearances.
The Bears start a three-game home stand on Wednesday when the Syracuse Crunch comes to Chocolatetown, before the Cleveland Monsters visit for Saturday and Sunday matches.