By Don Scott
The Hershey Bears scored three goals in the second period, and Parker Milner stopped all 19 shots he faced to shutout the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 3-0, on Sunday at the PPL Center. Hershey ended 2019 with a 10-1-0-0 record in December and an 18-10-2-3 overall line.
The Bears have now beaten the Phantoms six times in seven meetings (6-0-1-0) in 2019-20.
The PPL Center used to be a house of horrors for the Bears, but not so much anymore. Hershey started an overall 17-game point streak last season in the same game they ended a nine-game losing streak at the PPL Center, with a 3-0 win on Jan. 12.
The entire goal scoring for the Bears came in the middle period after a scoreless opening 20 minutes.
Mike Sgarbossa forced a turnover that set up Joe Snively all alone in the low-slot at 3:46 for the game’s first goal. Snively ripped a shot past Phantoms goaltender and fellow Yale University product Alex Lyon for his ninth goal of the season.
Hershey doubled its advantage on another Phantoms defensive zone mistake. Bobby Nardella created a turnover and located an open Garrett Pilon all alone with Lyon, and Pilon connected for his sixth goal of the season at 14:41.
With a few seconds remaining in the period, Hershey took advantage of an offensive zone face-off to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
Nardella fired a pass across the blue line to Connor Hobbs who unleashed a shot towards the net. Lyon made the save but Brian Pinho pounced on the second chance opportunity at 19:44.
Goaltender Milner, on recall from the South Carolina Stingrays, Hershey’s ECHL affiliate, posted his initial AHL shutout. He leads the ECHL with an 11-0-2-1 record in 15 appearances, goals against average (1.86) and shutouts (5).
Over the past three seasons, Milner has now appeared in 15 games with Hershey with a 7-7-1 record,
Final shots favored the Bears 38-19 and the Bears special teams unit finished 0-for-5 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
Hershey heads into the 2020 portion of their schedule in third place in the Atlantic Division, two points behind both Hartford and Providence with two games in hand on both.
The Bears return to action on Friday, Jan. 3 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton then host Bridgeport on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.