HERSHEY, Pa. – In a battle between two of the American Hockey League’s hottest teams at Giant Center on Wednesday night, the Hershey Bears and Bridgeport Islanders played to their strengths. Bridgeport erased a 2-0 Hershey lead, but the two teams traded goals and went to overtime and eventually a shootout where the Islanders earned the win in the skills competition. Michael Dal Colle had the deciding marker in the shootout, earning the win for goaltender Jakub Skarek who had 27 saves, while Pheonix Copley suffered the loss with 25 stops.
For the Bears, this game was about making due with the hand they were dealt. Hershey saw a few more regular forwards unable to play as Mike Vecchione and Beck Malenstyn were both out of action. The exact cause is unknown, but forced the home team to dig deep within its lineup to field a team on this night. The Bears kept their hot players going and succeeded on special teams, but not what one might expect as the Chocolate and White scored two shorthanded goals to open a 2-0 lead. Shane Gersich continued his hot streak by opening the scoring with his ninth of the season while Brian Pinho would follow with his first of the season in his return from injury with a vintage goal.
Much like the last time these two teams played, Bridgeport erased the lead in the second with two goals in quick succession. Seth Helgeson got the Islanders on the board with a snipe from the point that rung in off the crossbar, followed up 47 seconds later by Paul Thompson’s third of the season on a top corner shot past Copley. The teams would trade goals again in the third as Erik Brown jumped out of the penalty box and into a two-on-one and buried a feed from Felix Bibeau to give the visitors the lead. Down but not out, the Bears answered with Joe Snively scoring his 11th goal of the season after Tobias Geisser made a nifty pass to get the Hershey sniper some space.
Overtime featured a mix of open opportunities and the slower, tactical play that teams employ in the overtime session with no results. Ultimately, Skarek made three saves and Copley was beat once to give the Islanders the extra point and gives them points in seven straight games. The point was not enough to move the Bears past the Springfield Thunderbirds despite the point numbers favoring Hershey, but their percentage ends up being lower as a result of the loss.
“I thought we got away from our game in the second period,” Bears head coach Scott Allen said after the game. “We started trying to play the track meet style they were playing, and that does not bode well for us. When we try to play the opposition’s style, it opens up holes and weaknesses in our game. We just weren’t good. Hard fought third period from both teams, outstanding goal to tie it at the end. That’s the hottest team in the American Hockey League for good reason. It’s a big point but it’s disappointing not to get the second for sure.”
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) January 13, 2022
Among noteworthy performances from this game, Gersich tallied a point for the third straight game and six of his last seven performances, while Snively tallied a point for the eighth straight game and has points in 15 out of his last 16 games played this season. His 31 points now move him into a tie with five other skaters for second overall in the AHL in points. Only Andrew Poturalski’s 42 points reigns above Snively and the others in the league in that respect.
The two teams will meet again at the end of January, but for now, Hershey will next be in action when they host the Toronto Marlies on Saturday for the first time since March 15, 2019. Meanwhile, the Islanders will be off until Sunday, when they play the Providence Bruins.
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