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Charlotte Checkers

Bears Strike Back, Rally Past Checkers

Bears Strike Back, Rally Past Checkers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It was a different type of game in less than 24 hours between the Hershey Bears and the Charlotte Checkers in a rematch at Bojangles Coliseum. After a high-scoring game on Friday evening, the rematch a day later was a low-scoring affair that saw the Bears tally a goal late and score in overtime to claim a 2-1 win and break a five-game losing streak in Charlotte. Lucas Johansen scored the winner after a great defensive play in his own to prevent the Checkers from a chance and firing one past Antoine Bibeau to complete the comeback.

An exciting finish followed a fairly sloppy contest, as both teams had trouble creating any kind of flow and fighting the puck at times. Charlotte opened the scoring partway through the second period when Logan Hutsko chipped a shot over the shoulder of Zach Fucale to open a 1-0 lead. The goal was Hutsko’s first in the AHL, continuing a strong start after tallying four assists. He has five points in four games on the young season. Alexander True continued his strong play with a primary assist on the goal, upping his total to seven points in four games.

The game was a bit slow following the goal, as both teams struggled to create scoring chances. Hershey eventually broke through with just over seven minutes left in regulation when Garrett Pilon tallied his third goal of the season and sixth point in four games with a bit of good luck, as his shot fluttered up and over like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow past Bibeau to even the count at one apiece. Hershey’s top line all chipped in on it, with Mike Sgarbossa adding his fifth point of the season assisting on the tally as well as Joe Snively’s third helper on the season.

As difficult as regulation seemed to be for the two teams, overtime proved to be the exact opposite as the two teams traded excellent chances all the way up to the finish. Fucale ended the game with 27 saves on 28 shots while Bibeau had 24 of 26, but the game was decided when Johansen made a key defensive play in his own end, with Cale Fleury off the bench trying to create some offense. Johansen used his body and won an important battle to separate him from the puck, sending Aliaksei Protas and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby up the ice. Jonsson-Fjallby dropped the puck to Johansen, who fired a laser past Bibeau with 23 seconds on the clock to earn an important split for the Bears on the road.

Hershey showed resolve in fighting some difficult conditions to tie the game and earn the win. It’s been a great start to the season for Johansen, who spent much of the past few seasons injured and previously tallied in Hershey’s season-opening win over these same Charlotte Checkers. Each team had a more defensively sound game in the rematch, and it should be no surprise that the two teams will continue to be big rivals this season. Hershey will return home to host the Syracuse Crunch for the first time since November 3, 2019 on Wednesday while the Checkers will be idle until they travel to Providence for a showdown with the Bruins on Friday. It’s the first matchup between the Checkers and Bruins since January 5, 2020 as a few foes will get reacquainted in the new season.

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