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BY DON SCOTT

It was a big Saturday afternoon for the Hershey Bears, as rookie Connor McMichael got his first pro hat trick, goalie Zach Fucale made 34 saves in his initial game and the Bears scoring a 3-1 victory over the visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. It was Hershey’s first home win this season. 

“The play in front of Zach was solid, but I wouldn’t say it was great and we did enough late in the game to hang on, but he was outstanding and really strong,” Hershey head coach Spencer Carbery said “What stuck out to me were the times the puck was in the crease and he was very strong finding the puck every time.” 

The one downside was defenseman Lucas Johansen sustaining another first period injury, which meant the Bears had to finish with just five blue liners the rest of the way.

 The teams traded power-play goals in the opening period just over two minutes apart, with Zach Nastasiuk putting the Penguins up at 6:27 and McMichael countering at 8:39. 

McMichael’s second unassisted goal 1:19 into the second period became the game-winner, and then he hit an open net at 18:50 to claim his initial AHL hat trick, in just his fifth contest. The hat trick was the first by a Bear, and the first by a Hershey rookie, since Joe Snively scored three times versus Charlotte on Feb. 25, 2020, at Giant Center. 

“The thing about Connor is that he’s a very intelligent player who has adapted to pro hockey despite doing some small things that need to be changed that he could get away with in the OHL and he picked them up right away,” Carbery said. “The puck just follows him around and he is in the right place at the right time and you can’t teach that.” 

For Fucale, who made 34 saves, it was his 70th AHL game, having played for the St. John’s IceCaps, Laval Rocket, Chicago Wolves, and Syracuse Crunch for a 29-32-6 record. 

Hershey (3-0-2-0) is idle until Wednesday when it travels to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the first of three games in four days that includes a road game in Newark, N.J. on Friday with Binghamton, then hosting the Devils in Giant Center at 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

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