HERSHEY, Pa. – It was a total team effort by the Hershey Bears on Wednesday night at Giant Center in a 6-1 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Bears got a pair of first AHL goals by Tobias Geisser and Marcus Vela, while a four point night by Mason Morelli proved to be the difference makers in the game. Hershey won its fifth straight game against their interstate foe, a first in the storied rivalry between the two teams. Hunter Shepard picked up his second win in as many games, while Alex D’Orio suffered the loss for Wilkes-Barre.
Both teams were icing new look rosters as a few players had departed for the NHL while others were returning to the lineup after coming off of the COVID protocol list. Among those returning for Hershey, forwards Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Shane Gersich made impacts on this game and goaltender Zach Fucale returned to back up Shepard in this contest. The Bears were without scoring forward Garrett Pilon as well as captain Matt Moulson, who sustained an upper body injury and missed just his second game in his time with Hershey and first due to injury. Wilkes-Barre dressed 13 forwards and five defensemen in the game, with players like Anthony Angello and Nathan Legare returning to the lineup to aide in the Penguins’ efforts.
The Bears did their damage in the second period, opening with the first AHL goal for defensive defenseman Geisser. The blue liner, in his 70th career AHL game, beat D’Orio with a wrist shot through some traffic from the top of the left faceoff circle. Hershey would double the lead a few minutes later with Vela’s first AHL goal in his third game with the Bears, nicely set up on a steal in the neutral zone by Bobby Nardella and a drop pass by Ryan Dmowski. Hershey put a game high of 15 shots in the second period, and both goals were well earned for the two players making some strides in the AHL.
Hershey was not done in the second period, though, when Morelli got in on the action by forcing defender Matt Bartkowski into turning the puck over in front of his own net. Morelli buried his own rebound past D’Orio to extend the Bears’ lead with his fourth of the season. Hershey added one more inside of the final minute when Nardella scored his fourth of the season from nearly the same spot as Geisser’s goal. The Bears got to the net and put up another good screen to let those defensemen fire away from the line. The Penguins would get on the board just 13 seconds later with Jan Drozg’s first goal of the season with some traffic on the way to beat Shepard, leaving the score at 4-1 after two periods.
In the third, Hershey would add two more goals when Dylan McIlrath would score on another point shot through some traffic. The towering Bears defender scored his second goal as a Bear with more traffic preventing D’Orio from seeing the puck and made it 5-1. With the game seemingly in hand, the only question left was if the Bears could find another goal for Dmowski, who struck in his fifth straight game and sixth goal in that stretch to make it 6-1 Hershey. Dmowski fired the puck up and over the goaltender’s shoulder from below the left faceoff dot to net a two point game and a strong showing from players on professional tryout agreements for the Bears.
Going into the New Year with a big victory over the Penguins! Here are tonight's highlights. pic.twitter.com/1rPnH7F1Fx
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) December 30, 2021
Impressively, the Bears managed all six goals at even strength, going without a power play in this game after six in Monday’s contest. Wilkes-Barre came up empty on two chances and were outshot on a 34-20 count for the game. Morelli’s impressive four points earned him the game’s first star honors. Bears defender Jake Massie left the game late in the third, and an update was not available immediately after the game.
“When you win 6-1, it’s fun, no question,” a content head coach Scott Allen said after the game. “History was made tonight. It’s tough to make history for the Hershey Bears because the history is so long, there’s so many different things. It’s an element to be proud of for this group.”
Allen was particularly proud of how the group played despite missing so many key players. Despite missing some players due to the returning taxi squad, Hershey was still without players like Brian Pinho and Mike Vecchione due to injury in addition to Moulson, Pilon, Eddie Wittchow, and Kody Clark. Four players with multiple points and six different scorers add up to two points for the Bears and a satisfying way to cap off the 2021 calendar year. The Bears are next in action on Sunday, while the Penguins will be idle until a January 7 trip to Utica after a pair of games with the Cleveland Monsters were postponed.
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