Matt Strome scored his first goal of the season and Julian Napravnik tallied twice, as the Hershey Bears (35-16-5-2) ended a three-game skid with a 6-3 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (31-23-3-3) on Wednesday at the PPL Center.
With the win, Hershey improved to 9-2-0-0 against Lehigh Valley this season and and reduced its magic number to 11 points.
Connor McMichael knocked in a Jake Massie rebound off the left post and past goalie Samuel Ersson at 1:54 of the first period to put Hershey up 1-0. It was his 13th goal of the season, as Garrett Pilon earned a secondary assist on the tally.
Garrett Wilson tied it at 7:59 when Hershey goalie Zach Fucale attempted to regain control when the puck bounced off the end-boards to the top of the crease and Wilson corralled the loose biscuit and beat Fucale.
Wilson scored again at 7:28 of the second period to put Lehigh Valley up 2-1, when Cooper Marody fed Wilson in the slot to beat Fucale.
The Bears pulled even when Beck Malenstyn found Strome at the left circle, and he snapped a low shot past the glove of Ersson, at 12:01 for his first as a Bear. For Strome, it was his first tally since a two-goal performance as a member of the Phantoms on March 4, 2022, against Charlotte.
Napravnik put Hershey up 3-2 just 36 seconds later when he toe-dragged the puck around a sliding Wyatte Wylie and beat Ersson stick-side for his second of the season, at 12:37. Shane Gersich and Henrik Rybinski earned assists on the tally.
A good effort on the fore-check by Napravnik led to a Phantom turnover, and Bobby Nardella’s pass along the left boards found Gersich in the slot, who buried his fifth of the season through the legs of Ersson at 5:38.
Wilson answered with a hat-trick goal at 9:31, on a give-and-go play that saw him deke to his backhand and beat Fucale to make it a 4-3 tilt.
Napravnik scored his second of the night when Rybinski found him at the right circle during a 4-on-4 sequence, and Napravnik slipped the puck through the pads of Ersson at 10:58. Lucas Johansen earned a secondary assist.
Nardella ended the scoring with an empty-net goal at 17:10 for his fifth of the season. Dylan McIlrath and Mason Morelli earned the assists with Morelli’s helper earning him his 100th professional point.
Shots finished 30-21 in favor of the Bears. The Bears were 0-for-3 on the power play; the Phantoms finished 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
Hershey continues the 2022-23 season when the Chocolate and White face the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center again on Friday at 7:05 p.m. The Bears return home to Giant Center where to they host the Rochester Americans for Hall of Fame Night and Print Works On Demand Poster Night on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Hershey entered the game three points behind Providence for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, with one game in-hand. Every point will be critical in the final 15 games of the season as third-place Charlotte is just three points back of the Bears, although the Checkers have played 59 games to Hershey’s 57.