On Saturday night at Giant Center, the Hershey Bears ended 335 days between games with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their 2021 season opener. The result marked the fourth consecutive season that Hershey suffered a loss to start their home schedule.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead into the final minute of the contest, before Wyatte Wylie beat Hershey’s Pheonix Copley to pull the Phantoms even, with 45 seconds remaining and Lehigh Valley goalie Zane McIntyre on the bench for another skater. Wylie then setup Ryan Fitzgerald for the winner at 1:59 of the overtime.
Hershey’s only goal came at 13:02 of the middle stanza, when Kody Clark flipped a backhander past McIntyre, with the assist going to Eddie Whittchow.
“We have to be mentally strong in the situations that are so different from what had been the norm, and say we have a great opportunity to play games and get better each day and hopefully we’ll be able to continue playing,” Hershey coach Spencer Carbery said.
Kody Clark and Connor McMichael were on the line with Matt Moulson, who has more than 1,000 games played.
“I think he (Moulson) is a good fit to be with Connor and Kody, and I’ll be honest, there were some tough moments at the end of the game that will be learning experiences for them and Moulson can help with that,” said Carbery.
The Bears are idle until Thursday’s game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Friday road opener with the Binghamton Devils was rescheduled for February 17 due to COVID-19 protocols affecting the Binghamton staff.
Due to restrictions in the state of New York, the Devils will play all home games this season out of the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey, the practice rink of the club’s NHL affiliate, the New Jersey Devils.
Hershey’s last game was March 8, 2020, 3-2 shootout loss at Providence. On Mar. 12, the AHL season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Less than a week later the AHL season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2019-20 campaign was ultimately canceled on May 11.
The 2020-21 seasons will differ from a normal season. The Bears will play in the North Division, and the season will last just 36 games. All of Hershey’s games will be versus regional foes Binghamton, Lehigh Valley, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The other teams in the seven-team division are Rochester, Syracuse and Utica.