ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Hershey Bears were back on the ice in the eighth installment of their 14 game season series against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at PPL Center in Allentown, and for the first time in that span, the Phantoms were able to take a decision against their arch-rivals. The Phantoms capitalized on a weak second period from the Bears to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 5-2 decision courtesy of a four-goal frame. Zach Fucale took the loss in goal with 18 saves while Samuel Ersson took the win with 20 stops.
For all of what the game turned out to be, it wasn’t a bad start for the Bears as they grabbed the opening goal for the eighth time in as many games of the season series. Lucas Johansen fired the puck from the boards, which was quickly deflected in by Connor McMichael for his tenth goal of the campaign to give the Bears the lead.
The goal gets the monkey off of Hershey’s back after being blanked in their last game, but unfortunately it didn’t wasn’t meant to last. The Bears mustered only three shots on goal in the middle stanza and looked disinterested at times, letting in a few goals that were preventable.
Goal from Bobby Brink helped to be the difference maker in tonight’s game. #HERvsLHV pic.twitter.com/IoKT5JSTBL
— Corey Swartz (@FPHBears) February 2, 2023
The Phantoms deserve credit for taking advantage. They rattled off four goals in just under six minutes of game action, starting with Louis Belpedio’s fifth goal on a slap shot through a bit of traffic that picked the top corner over Fucale’s blocker side.
On a power play just over a minute later, the Phantoms took the lead as Elliot Desnoyers fed Bobby Brink for his fifth of the campaign after a narrow keep-in at the blue line. Kevin Connauton tallied a goal minutes later by beating the goaltender low and along the ice to make it 3-1. Tallying a secondary assist on all three goals was Cooper Marody, who was named the game’s first star with the top point total of the game.
Tyson Foerster capped off the frame by scoring his 16th goal on the year, putting an exclamation point on the middle stanza as one of Hershey’s weakest of the year.
Close look at the hand-eye coordination by Aliaksei Protas to bat this out of midair! #HERvsLHV pic.twitter.com/tDqz08Qy0z
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) February 2, 2023
Hershey cut into the lead with an impressive display of hand-eye coordination by Aliaksei Protas, deflecting a centering feed from Hendrix Lapierre out of midair with one hand for his first of the season as a Bear. Protas was assigned to the team as the National Hockey League’s All-Star break took effect for the Washington Capitals.
It proved to be too little, too late as the Phantoms would catch a break with an empty-net goal to put the game out of reach. The seat heats up a bit for the Bears as their lead on first place dropped to just two points with the Providence Bruins snagging a regulation win on Wednesday while two points helps the Phantoms move into a tie for fourth place with the Springfield Thunderbirds.
It raises an interesting challenge for the Bears going into the last two games before the All-Star break. The team was perhaps due to have some struggles only a pair of games removed from an eight-game point streak but is in danger of letting their hold on the division slip away with any more major struggles. Friday’s tilt with the Bridgeport Islanders should be a good test to get back on track against the team that blanked them last weekend, and putting forward a complete effort of sixty minutes should be the top priority to cap off this lengthy road stretch on a high note. The Bears have faced adversity in the past, but this challenge in particular serves to toughen them up for the second half of the season.
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