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Bears Blast Phantoms, Frank Hits 20

#AHL | To be Frank, @TheHersheyBears have been on a tear. Led by their talented rookie, they buried the @LVPhantoms to the tune of a 7-3 final. @FPHBears breaks down the game in his recap

Bears Blast Phantoms, Frank Hits 20

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – It was hard to find a player who didn’t have a good game for the Hershey Bears on Saturday night. The Bears topped their single-game best with seven goals on the way to a 7-3 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms with a ton of players factoring in on the scoring, and their entire lineup didn’t need to chip in on the act to get the win. The decision was highlighted by Ethen Frank’s four-point night with two goals and two assists to give him 20 goals on the season as five different players had multiple points to extend Hershey’s point streak to eight games. Zach Fucale earned his second straight win over the Phantoms with 20 saves while Pat Nagle took the loss with 21 stops.

In front of a crowd of 8,624 at the PPL Center, the visiting Bears got the ball rolling with Mike Vecchione burying a nice passing play with the top line with Frank feeding him for his 14th goal of the campaign. Hershey followed it up minutes later as Vincent Iorio made an excellent shot-pass to Shane Gersich for his first goal in two months.

The Bears capped off an excellent opening stanza with Frank making a great play in his own zone, chipping the puck to himself and catching up to it to then feed Mike Sgarbossa, who beat Nagle to give Hershey three goals in the opening frame. Sgarbossa finished the game with a goal and two assists as well as a plus-five mark to lead both teams.

The two teams traded goals in the second period, with Garrett Pilon blasting a one-timer from the left circle on a great feed from Connor McMichael at the point to extend Hershey’s lead to four. Pilon has gotten into a groove since returning from a high ankle sprain, tallying eight points in his last eight games, and his goal is his sixth of the campaign.

The Phantoms did have a chance to try and shift the momentum in an unusual fashion, as Cal O’Reilly scored a shorthanded goal after a boarding call on Tyson Foerster put Lehigh Valley on the penalty kill for five minutes. The top affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t parlay the momentum into a comeback, though, as Frank was sprung on a breakaway only 34 seconds into the final frame and beat Nagle with a quick shot.

Although the Phantoms countered the first Frank goal to make it 5-2, the Bears rookie made it two goals as he deflected a shot from Dylan McIlrath to tally his 20th of the season. It’s a nice mark for the Bears to hit, as the team went the entire 2021-22 season without having a single player hit that number as recalls and injuries thwarted a lengthy list of players who likely would have hit the mark. Frank scores 20 and it isn’t even the month of February as his impressive rookie season continues.

The only element that was in jeopardy for the Bears on this night was their power play streak, which has been an important component of their recent point streak. It looked like the Bears might walk away from this game with a lot of even-strength goals, but Hershey added one more as Mason Morelli deflected his third goal in the last two games on the man-advantage off a great shot by McMichael to make it 7-3. Much like Hershey’s point streak, their power play has scored in eight straight games with officially one goal on two chances in this one.

The Bears will hopefully save some goals for Sunday afternoon as they’re right back at it with their annual Teddy Bear Toss game against the Bridgeport Islanders at Giant Center. The event is always a big draw and is already completely sold out in terms of seats available online, with the team looking to break their previous record of 52,341 set a year ago. Bridgeport dropped a 3-1 decision in Wilkes-Barre to the Penguins on Saturday night preceding their trip to the Sweetest Place on Earth, setting the stage for an interesting game between the two teams. The Bears kept pace with the Providence Bruins as the Atlantic Division’s two top teams picked up wins on Saturday.

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