PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Hershey Bears and the Providence Bruins met up for the second time at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this weekend, and it was a similar result both games as the Bruins took two games over the visitors from The Sweetest Place on Earth in a 4-1 decision. Providence erased a Hershey lead with four unanswered goals to take the win and lept into second place in the Atlantic Division as a result of a perfect weekend. Troy Grosenick earned the win in goal with 30 saves while Zach Fucale suffered the loss with 24 stops.
The game started out slower, with both teams feeling the effects of playing three games in as many nights, but the Bears finally got on the board for the first and only time this weekend in Providence courtesy of a goal awarded to the Massachusetts native Mike Vecchione. He appeared to get a piece of a wrist shot from Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and scored his 12th of the season at 4:335 of the second period.
Providence turned the tide before the period ended, starting with a goal from Eduards Tralmaks as he took a feed from Samuel Asselin and beat Fucale with a move to even the score. With under three seconds left, the Bruins would score the eventual game-winner when Zach Senyshyn rushed around the Hershey defense and his backhand shot leaked just over the line to count for the home team.
In the third, Providence would quelch any hopes that Hershey might have with a power-play goal from Jesper Froden, who beat Fucale high and over the shoulder to extend the lead to 3-1. Jack Ahcan would be the beneficiary of a brilliant passing play by his team for his sixth goal of the season, and Grosenick would turn aside all 18 shots fired by the Bears in the final frame as he continued to look unbeatable in the season series between the two teams.
Among noteworthy performances, Cameron Hughes posted five points in the two games, tallying a goal and four assists against the Bears with a pair in today’s game.
Unfortunately for the Bears, who so often have overcome their roster issues this season to post wins, it seems to have caught up with them in recent times. Hershey is still missing top forwards Garrett Pilon, Mike Sgarbossa, and Matt Moulson on their active roster as well as Joe Snively and Brett Leason on recall to the Washington Capitals for the foreseeable future. Scoring defenseman and power-play specialist Bobby Nardella remains on the shelf, and the recall of hot goaltender Pheonix Copley has impacted the Bears significantly.
While the loss does not fall squarely on the shoulders of Fucale, he has struggled in recent games at times, and it seems to come when the Bears are unable to bring the offense to match it. Bears head coach Scott Allen has never used the roster issues as an excuse, but it does factor in now, especially with AHL teams restocked at the conclusion of the taxi squads.
While the Bruins surged to second in the Atlantic Division, the Bears fell to fifth place in the Atlantic Division with the loss as the surging Charlotte Checkers passed them in points percentage. Although the fluctuating points percentages are very close together, the Checkers have now asserted themselves in the very close battle for positioning, and the top two spots have never been more up for grabs at this stage. The Bears and Checkers are examples of what a very good stretch can do as well as what a bad set of games can do to a team.
Hershey will have a bit of time to regroup, returning to Giant Center to host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight for some essential points. Hershey has now lost four of its past six games, and this evening’s game represents a chance to get back on track before a home-and-home set with the AHL’s second-best team, the Utica Comets, this coming weekend.
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