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Bears Squander Important Game in Providence

#AHL | The top two teams of the Atlantic Division got together on Saturday, with the @AHLBruins getting the better of @TheHersheyBears. @FPHBears breaks down the weekend’s action here

Bears Squander Important Game in Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – If Saturday’s game with the Providence Bruins was a measuring-stick game for the Hershey Bears, simply put, the team isn’t ready for hockey beyond 72 games at this point. The Bears went up 2-0 in a strong first period but surrendered the game slowly with a pedestrian third period as Oskar Steen netted the decisive goal in a 3-2 comeback win for the Bruins, who took over first place in the Atlantic Division. Brandon Bussi turned aside 21 shots for the win while Zach Fucale stopped 24 shots in the loss.

The Bears put forward a pretty good start to the game, breaking the scoreless drought of a week ago with a pair of goals in just over a minute and a half of play in the first period. Beck Malenstyn  earned credit for his sixth goal of the season on a deflection of a point shot from Lucas Johansen to open the scoring, followed quickly by a goal from Ethen Frank for his 25th goal of the season. Readers of Field Pass Hockey saw Frank’s goal coming on what may have been a good bit of scouting by the Bears, as the play resembled one drawn up by the Springfield Thunderbirds a day earlier in a similar fashion, as a play along the boards to keep the puck in resulted in a centering feed to a sniper in the middle of the ice.

If there’s one area that the Bears have struggled in for much of the season, it’s capitalizing on momentum and burying their opponents in a sixty-minute game. The Bruins started to crawl their way back in this game early in the second period when Eduards Tralmaks tapped a rebound by Fucale less than a minute into the middle stanza to cut the lead to one. Hershey has been good at maintaining one-goal leads this season, but it felt like this would be a day where it wouldn’t last. The Bruins evened up the game in the third period when former Bear Connor Carrick finished off a nice passing play after the expiration of a power play from Fabian Lysell. They’d take the only lead they’d need when Steen would fire a shot by Fucale for his 14th goal of the year with about five minutes to play, and that was enough in another one-goal decision between these two teams.

It sets the stage for crunch time for the Bears in the rematch on Sunday afternoon. Hershey falls to second place in the division with their lead for that place down to just three points over the Charlotte Checkers, but even with three game in-hand, the seat is starting to get warm for one of those important byes in the first round of the postseason. It’s a situation not dissimilar to that of a year ago, where the team’s stock started falling around this time of year and eventually resulted in an exit in the play-in round to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The team will have to set its sights higher to avoid repeating history, but with the Calder Cup being the goal in Hershey, it’s a task that this group of Bears will need to set their minds to soon.

The two teams rematch for the fifth of six games in total in their season series at 3:05 PM EST, with the Bruins having taken three straight contests. The Bears have the fewest games played in the Atlantic Division, which will help them in their pursuit of the standings at just 56, but Sunday’s game highlights the club’s efforts to prove themselves as one of the league’s top teams. Saturday’s game marked the first of three games taking place at Amica Mutual Pavilion, a building in which the Bears have not won since January 25, 2020 with a 3-2 shootout decision. Phil Maillet scored with 21 seconds to play and scored in the skills competition in that game.

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