HERSHEY, Pa. – It was the first of 14 matchups between the Hershey Bears and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Sunday afternoon at Giant Center as the familiar foes clashed in the second game of the season for each team. Despite a frantic finish and a special teams clinic, the Bears prevailed with a key performance from Zach Fucale in goal to hold off a Phantoms comeback, leaving with a 2-1 win in the Sweetest Place on Earth. Phantoms goaltender Samuel Ersson took the loss in his first AHL game with 21 saves while Fucale had 23 for the win.
The Bears picked up where they left off on Saturday night just under halfway through the first period when Mike Vecchione went to the net and deposited a rebound from a Tobias Geisser shot to open the scoring. Geisser fired a smart shot from the point and Vecchione made a quick spin to find the loose puck and deposit it for his first as a Bear. Hershey doubled its lead in the second period with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby’s first of the season on a similarly smart play that started at the point with Cody Franson firing the puck towards the speedy Swede who tapped the puck past Ersson along the goal line. Hershey got goals from seven different skaters for seven goals on the weekend in a strong team effort, which was a key to earning two wins.
Although Hershey kept up their great effort in limiting shots against, Fucale made a few key saves look easy throughout the contest. One in particular was a breakaway save on Isaac Ratcliffe with the Bears short a man, as the towering forward tried to beat Fucale between the legs but was denied. Although Fucale’s shot count was not as high as some instances where a netminder might steal a game, Fucale made some critical stops to keep the Phantoms off the board.
Zach Fucale does it again! #LHVvsHER pic.twitter.com/z2PITmlGLO
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) October 17, 2021
Lehigh Valley didn’t quit, and seemed to rise to the task in the third period. High scoring forward Gerald Mayhew tallied his first goal of the season with 2:30 on the clock to draw the Phantoms within a goal, setting the stage for a frantic finish. The Phantoms had a power play for the remaining two minutes when Garrett Pilon was called for cross checking, and had an 80 second 6-on-3 advantage with Ersson pulled to try and even the count at two with Geisser in the box. However, the Bears, fueled by a crowd roaring to the occasion to cheer them on, kept the Phantoms at bay to earn their second win on home ice. Hershey’s penalty kill answered the call by killing all eight power plays, while coming up empty on two chances with just one being a full two minutes. Bears head coach Scott Allen said his team was focused on controlling what they could control over the course of opening weekend.
“We talked about it in both games,” he said. “For instance, when the officiating is 8-2 and it’s not in our favor, guys can get frustrated with that and lose focus. We can’t control that. At the end of the day, if we play a hard, honest game, some nights the calls are going to go against you and others they’re going to go for you in a full season, hopefully they even themselves out and you control what you can control.”
A frantic finish, but we claimed a 2-1 win this afternoon thanks to 23 saves from @Fucale31 and a perfect 8-for-8 day on the penalty kill, and a big 6-on-3 kill in the closing minute. #HBH pic.twitter.com/IN8QtZ51G4
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) October 17, 2021
The two teams will wait until next weekend to hit the ice again, as the Bears travel to Charlotte for a pair of games at Bojangles Coliseum to take on the Checkers on Friday and Saturday while the Phantoms will prepare for their home opener on Saturday against the Hartford Wolf Pack. The second instalment of the season series will take place on November 10 at Giant Center before the teams square off three straight times to cap off November and enter December.
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