BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Scoring in the first period has been a tall order for the Hershey Bears of late, as the team has gone five games without striking in the opening stanza in this recent stretch of games. On Friday night in Bridgeport, taking on the Islanders, Hershey flipped the script on that trend with all of the scoring in this game taking place in the first period, as Beck Malenstyn’s third goal in two games stood up as the game-winner in a 2-1 decision in favor of the Bears. Pheonix Copley made 27 saves in his 250th professional contest to earn the win, while Cory Schneider suffered the loss with 21 stops.
Hershey bucked the trend early in the period thanks to a long-range shot from Lucas Johansen for his sixth of the season. Johansen let it rip from the point through some traffic and found the back of the net, but Bridgeport battled back into the game when Jeff Kubiak took the puck to the net and jammed a rebound past Copley to even the score at one. The difference-maker in the game was Malenstyn’s goal, as the Bears forward had the puck deep near the goal line and spun an attempted pass to the net that clicked off a defender’s skate and on goal past Schneider to give Hershey the lead once more. Although the goal was courtesy of a fortunate bounce, it’s the kind of goal that has eluded the Bears during their challenging stretch and the type of play that hasn’t benefitted them of late. Malenstyn’s goal sets a new single season-high in goals in his AHL career with eight and gives him three goals and an assist in his last two games, earning the first star honors in both contests.
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) March 12, 2022
The rest of the game was not without drama, particularly in the third period as Bridgeport saw a goal washed out after Copley had his skate knocked out from under him by an Islander. The back official correctly washed out the goal with the goaltender down and out on his back leading up to the tally. Neither team benefited from special teams play as Bridgeport had the lone power play of the entire contest. However, a controversial diving call on Kody Clark washed out the only potential opportunity for Hershey. Copley even took a crack at the empty net late in regulation, looking to become the first goaltender to score a goal in the storied history of the Hershey Bears, but it wasn’t meant to be on this night.
Hershey didn’t get any help out of town on this night as the Charlotte Checkers dropped the Springfield Thunderbirds by a 5-1 count to keep the Atlantic Division standings from changing much at the moment. Hershey’s 63 point rating is third-best in the division, but the points percentage has them in fifth place due to the varying amount of games played between those teams. Hershey will take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms again on Sunday at Giant Center, while Bridgeport will face off with the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday night as a game Bears fans will very much want them to find a way to win.
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