A Giant Center crowd of 10,020 fans witnessed 84-year-old franchise history on Sunday, when Hershey goaltender Zach Fucale recorded his third consecutive shutout during a 29-save outing in the Bears’ 2-0 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Fucale had blanked Utica 4-0 on the road on Feb. 25, shut out Lehigh Valley 4-0 on March 8 at Giant Center, and stayed perfect against the Phantoms this season. He is the first goaltender in the modern era of the franchise to post three consecutive shutouts overall.
Nick Damore is the only other goalie in franchise history to record three straight shutouts, posting two wins and a tie, during the 1939-40 season.
Following a scoreless first period, Hershey got the eventual game-winning goal at 16:52 of the middle frame. Marcus Vela redirected a Mason Morelli shot from the slot past Lehigh Valley goaltender Felix Sandstrom, to make it 1-0 on his sixth goal of the season.
In the third period, the goalies traded saves, and in the closing minutes, Sandstrom headed to the bench for an extra attacker. Before he could even get off the ice, Mike Sgarbossa scored into the vacated goal to make it 2-0 Hershey. The unassisted goal was Sgarbossa’s ninth of the season and his first since returning from injury.
“After we beat this team five days ago they won their next two, scoring 10 goals, so us shutting them down today was really big with the massive road trip ahead of us as part of the last 20 games,” said Hershey head coach Scott Allen. “We just have to make-do in the few home games we have the rest of the way.”
“We had a team bonding experience before the season started and we’ve used that foundation to continue to build on,” Allen added. “We have to deal with adversity both on and off the ice like playing at 1:30 Thursday in Toronto when traffic is really bad, then go to Belleville the next day and finish with a three o’clock game Saturday in Lavalm which is absurd.”
Fucale improved to 10-8-4 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.59. Hershey went 0-for-6 on the power play, while Lehigh Valley was 0-for-4. Shots favored the Bears, 32-29.
Hershey is now 7-4-0-0 at Giant Center on Sunday evenings this season and the Bears lead the AHL in attendance with an average of more 7,900 fans per game.
Hershey now has 2,998 franchise wins.