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Bears Bash Penguins

Bears Bash Penguins

HERSHEY, Pa. – It was an intriguing night at Giant Center for the third installment of 12 between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Questions arose quickly for the home Bears coming off of a lengthy trip to Springfield before the puck drop as the Chocolate and White were without their hottest scorer Joe Snively for the game, but it turned out the Bears could live without him for at least one night as Hershey tallied eight goals in a game for the first time since March 23, 2016, in an 8-3 decision over Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton. Hershey won its third straight game and four of its last five as well as third straight over their rival from up I-81. Pheonix Copley earned the win in his second start in as many nights with 33 saves.

The Bears got goals from eight different skaters in this contest and a number of big performances up and down their lineup. The scoring opened with a tally from enforcer Kale Kessy, who finished a great play starting with a keen interception by Bobby Nardella. Nardella relayed the puck to Kody Clark, who fed the puck to Kessy for his second goal of the season. Hershey doubled its lead minutes later when Clark got an early Christmas gift from the Penguins in the form of a turnover alone in front of starter Alex D’Orio and tallied his fifth goal of the season to make it 2-0. However, that was not all, as the Bears added one more with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Garrett Pilon teaming up for a goal for Ryan Dmowski, his second of the season. Dmowski jumped onto the top line in Snively’s absence and made an impact with the goal. Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton got one back before the period ended, as Jordy Bellerive scored his third goal of the season to bring the Penguins to within two at the intermission.

In the second period, the Penguins replaced D’Orio in his first start at the AHL level with Tommy Nappier, but it did little to stem the tide. The Bears scored just over four minutes in when Mike Vecchione extended his point streak to eight games with his third goal of the season and first of three points in the game. Vecchione picked up a stretch pass from Lucas Johansen perfectly in stride over the blue line and beat Nappier over the shoulder on his backhand to make it 4-1.

Hershey tallied two goals separated by 44 seconds and sandwiched a heavyweight tilt, as Nardella scored on a point shot for his second goal of the season, which was eerily similar to his first goal Wilkes-Barre a week ago. The shot went through a maze of players and hit twine to extend the lead to 5-1. Immediately after the goal, Kessy and Jamie Devane dropped the gloves in a top billing bout that saw Devane land the majority of shots. The fight did little to sway the momentum as Hershey scored on another savvy defensive play as Eddie Wittchow moved the puck to Clark, who found Mason Morelli on a breakaway to make it 6-1. Again, much like the first period, Wilkes-Barre capped the scoring in the frame as Valtteri Puustinen beat Copley on the power play to make it 6-2.

The Bears added another power-play goal in the third on a perfect feed by Matt Moulson, finding Jonsson-Fjallby with a saucer pass over a defender’s stick for the sixth goal of the season for the smooth-skating Swede to make it 7-2. Wilkes-Barre had one more marker from Matt Bartkowski, who fired a laser past Copley to make it 7-3. The Bears got one more in the last minute on a shorthanded strike by Shane Gersich, a well-deserved reward for his hard of late as he fired his own rebound on a breakaway from a tough angle to make it 8-3. A season-high crowd of 8,685 took in the win at Giant Center in a key win for the Bears.

“Thought it was a complete team effort tonight,” Bears head coach Scott Allen said. “Started on the back end with Pheonix Copley playing in back-to-back games, got in late/early this morning however you want to look at it, and for him to step back in and give the performance he gave, thought our defense was solid and we got some goal production out of our forwards tonight. All in all, I like the performance that we gave.”

“Going into the third period up 6-2, that certainly doesn’t happen very often, but every situation creates a different challenge for your team, and it’s something we want to be able to build on and learn from, and I love the fact that we won all three periods tonight, first, second and third, and finished off the 60 with a big two points.

When asked about the absence of Snively, Allen gave some news that may interest Washington Capitals fans. “Joe Snively was slated to play tonight, there’s a strong possibility that he’s going to play tomorrow, it may not be in Hershey.”

Bears forwards Clark and Vecchione finished with a goal and two assists, while Nardella and Jonsson-Fjallby finished with a goal and an assist. It was easier to count players who did not get in on the scoring, as only four skaters finished without a point. Hershey’s power play tallied twice on five attempts in another strong outing since Vecchione’s return to the lineup a week ago. Despite the loss, Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton had a few positives, including a goal and an assist for Puustinen as he continues to lead the Penguins in points and a power-play goal that should build some confidence for that unit which has struggled at times this season.

Hershey plays its third game in as many nights, hosting the Rochester Americans, where the Bears are looking to avenge a 7-3 loss from Black Friday. Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton will next be in action on Wednesday when they visit the Americans. Hershey was able to leap narrowly into third place in the Atlantic Division with the Providence Bruins idle due to a postponed game with the Belleville Senators on Saturday.

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