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BY DON SCOTT

Vitek Vanecek came within one save of posting his 11th career shutout for Hershey Sunday on Giant Center ice when Remi Elie scored at 19:32 of the third period in Hershey’s 4-1 victory over the Rochester Americans. With the win Vanecek recorded his 65th “W” as a Hershey Bear, tying him for 10th all-time in franchise history with Ed Chadwick.

Neither team could get on the scoreboard in the opening 20 minutes with Vanecek and Rochester’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen continuing to duel into the second frame until Martin Fehervary scored at 15:32 on a backhander that slid under the Amerks’ goaltender’s pads.

The third period saw the Bears strike three times in the space of just over five minutes.

Brian Pinho’s 12th of the season sailed past Luukkonen’s glove at 8:20 and Garrett Pilon nailed his 11th tally at 9:14 with Tyler Lewington starting the play. Riley Sutter joined the fun with his first AHL goal at 13:48 with Lewington again recording an assist.

“I’m just trying to play solid defensively but it has been nice to contribute a couple of points the last two games,” Lewington admitted. “It was unfortunate we couldn’t get the shutout for Vitek because he played a great game and we all wanted to play for him in a game like that.”

“We went into Charlotte on a roll and didn’t play our best hockey so we just had to refocus and get back at it,” Lewington continued. “We’re doing this now with a few guys injured so other guys got a chance to show what they can do, but it will be nice when all those guys come back. What it does is show we are a team that is deep.”

Elie’s shot with 33 seconds remaining deprived Vanecek of a shutout but he stopped 30 other missiles as Hershey outshot the Amerks, 36-31. Both teams failed to score on the power play, going 0-for-5.

The victory was Hershey’s 25th of the season, and pulled the Chocolate and White into a share of the Atlantic Division lead with Hartford.  The game matched the two oldest teams in the AHL against each other. 

The Bears and Americans history dates back to Rochester joining the AHL in 1956 after the Pittsburgh Hornets franchise was forced to fold. Sunday’s game, the 460th all-time meeting between the two clubs, has Hershey claiming 222 victories.

The Bears’ next contest is Wednesday at Springfield at 7:05 p.m. in the MassMutual Center.

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