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Bears Down Comets In Nelson’s Debut

Bears Down Comets In Nelson’s Debut

HERSHEY, Pa. – It was the first game behind the bench for new Hershey Bears head coach Todd Nelson with the new-look squad on the ice, and after arriving in style for the team’s red carpet walk on a motorcycle, his club earned a 3-1 win over the Utica Comets before a crowd of 7,766 at Giant Center. Zach Fucale earned the win in goal with 19 saves on 20 shots, while Akira Schmid suffered the loss with 20 saves. Despite the win, Nelson insisted the team has plenty to work on as they get right back at it on Sunday afternoon against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The Bears came out firing on all cylinders early in the game, registering ten shots on goal in the first period and tallying twice. Their first goal came off the stick of new addition Henrik Borgstrom, who swatted a loose puck between the legs of Schmid off of an original shot from Hendrix Lapierre. Borgstrom scored his first as a Bear after being the last forward to join the team, clearing waivers last week to join the club. Lapierre recorded his first AHL point on the assist alongside Mason Morelli to put the home team up by one. The Bears would tally again near the end of the period as Mike Vecchione poked home the rebound of a shot by Garrett Pilon to double the lead heading into the intermission.

Utica would tally its lone goal of the game early in the second period on a carry-over power play as Nolan Stevens would find former Bear Brian Pinho all alone in front of the net, and he’d make no mistake in burying it. It was a poetic goal for the beloved former Hershey forward, as Saturday’s game is Utica’s lone visit to Giant Center this season, to tally the opening goal of the season for the Comets in this game. The two teams would settle in for a much more defensive game in the second half, and the game would come down to the wire until Riley Sutter would break free to bury an empty net goal, a nice reward for a strong preseason for him. Morelli would be the only multi-point scorer in the game with a pair of helpers.

“I thought that, in the first period, we came out really strong,” Nelson said. “We got two goals, but we also had a lot of [offensive]-zone time which was great. They had momentum from their power play in the second, they really took it to us, gotta give them credit and they outworked us in the second period. They won more puck battles, more faceoffs, Fucale kept us in the game there. He played outstanding. We regained our composure in the third and it was a good third period for both teams, it was a good hockey game. It was a bit sloppy, and we have some work to do, still.”

Added Nelson:

“[Getting the first win] is huge. I’ve been on a lot of hockey teams, as a player and coach, when you don’t win that first one, especially at home, that makes tomorrow’s game much more pressured. It’s good to get that one under the belt, there’s a lot of teaching that’s going on. It’s a quick turnaround so we won’t do a lot of video (review on Sunday), but it means a lot to everyone and a sigh of relief, anytime you get that first win it feels good.”

Hershey was down a coach for the game as assistant coach Patrick Wellar missed the game due to illness. The Bears will get right back at it for their second game of the season against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in a 3:00 PM EST puck drop.

The Phantoms are coming off of a 3-2 overtime win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first Pennsylvania team matchup of the year, and Sunday’s game will be the first of 14 matchups between the two teams in 2022-23. The Bears could have former Phantoms skaters Logan Day and Matthew Strome in their lineup, as each made the leap to the chocolate side of the rivalry over the summer on AHL contracts as their first action with their new team.


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