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Bears Drop Preseason Finale in Shootout

Bears Drop Preseason Finale in Shootout

HERSHEY, Pa. – Hockey was back at Giant Center for the first time in five months as the Hershey Bears wrapped up their preseason slate against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Dressing a lineup consisting of more regulars than their previous two preseason games, the Bears put on a clinic of offense with 40 shots on goal, but the heroics of goaltender Filip Lindberg proved to be too much as the Penguins took the win in a six round shootout by a 3-2 final. Zach Fucale played the entire game and made 16 saves on 18 shots.

Despite the final score, there was plenty to be content with as fans of the Chocolate and White as the Bears poured on the pressure with 15 shots in each of the first two periods of play. The Penguins opened up the scoring just 80 seconds into the game with a shot whipped on goal by Chris Ortiz that eluded Fucale between the legs. From then on, it was all Hershey with a 15-6 shot margin in the first and second including a few quality looks on a pair of power plays. If posts were still counted as shots on goal, that would only serve to inflate the shot count higher in the Bears’ favor, although the rink staff will surely have no trouble finding puck marks on the posts after the game.

As is typical between such bitter foes who are set to meet each other 12 times in the regular season, the gloves came off in this game as Dylan McIlrath put a beating on Matthew Quercia as the former was looking to start a fight on his way to the penalty box. Quercia was in significant pain heading to the dressing room with a clear shoulder injury and did not return to the game. Hershey would find the equalizing goal when a new player would connect with a familiar one as Sam Anas made a fake in the slot and fed Shane Gersich for the goal to even the score at one apiece.

Wilkes-Barre found the back of the net again when Brooklyn Kalmikov scored his first of the preseason with a shot that popped the top of the netting behind Fucale. With the game coming down to the wire, Henry Rybinski scored a shorthanded goal after making a move around a defender and swatting a loose puck just under Lindberg to tie the game at two. Lindberg made all six saves of the overtime period and shootout goals from Sam Poulin and Sam Houde outdid the Bears, who got a shootout tally from Rybinski and a number of near misses from its top skaters. All in all, it was a lot of positives for the Bears that ended up being maligned by the inability to capitalize on those chances, but getting those kinks worked out in the preseason is why those games are played.

The Bears will be constructing their opening night lineup over the course of this week in preparation for their home opener on Saturday against the Utica Comets. Although Sunday’s lineup featured much of the group that will take the ice for game one, the Bears will be factoring in the last group of players sent down on waivers from the Washington Capitals. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Henrik Borgstrom, Brett Leason, and Lucas Johansen were sent down as the last cuts from Washington on Sunday  and will be key additions for the team. Hershey made a few cuts of their own to their ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, but there will be more decisions to be made before the puck drops on Saturday night.

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