ALLENTOWN, Pa. – In one of the few hockey games being played before the Christmas break, it was a remodeled and largely different group of Hershey Bears visiting the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for a makeup game at PPL Center. Hershey saw a number of players held out after the weekend’s set of games with some late roster adjustments due to the postponement of the parent club matchup with the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers earlier on in the day, and the Phantoms prevailed with mere moments to spare, making a 2-1 lead stand up with Connor Bunnaman scoring the eventual game-winner.
The Bears initially appeared set to be closer to their opening night roster than they’ve been since late October, when the Capitals announced that Brett Leason and Joe Snively would be rejoining the team following the postponement of NHL action, joining Beck Malenstyn in returning to the Chocolate and White. The Bears supplemented those moves with the late signings of Christopher Brown and Marcus Vela to professional tryout contracts later in the day, and prior to puck drop it was revealed that the Bears would be without a number of key players.
Eddie Wittchow and Mike Vecchione were revealed to have been injured in Sunday’s loss to the Rochester Americans, with Wittchow’s injury possibly keeping him out for an extended period of time according to head coach Scott Allen. In addition, forwards Shane Gersich and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby were revealed to have joined Zach Fucale on the COVID-19 protocol list, leaving Hershey with a patchwork roster in this trip.
Lehigh Valley also benefitted from the NHL postponement, with forwards Jackson Cates and Gerald Mayhew being returned to the team in the leadup to the contest. Pat Nagle got the start in goal, and the Phantoms would open the scoring with goals in the first and second periods, starting with Charlie Gerard getting an easy putback with the puck deflecting off of Maksim Sushko to Gerard for his first with the Phantoms. Bunnaman would get in on the scoring in the second, stashing his own rebound past Bears goaltender Pheonix Copley to double the lead.
Hershey took time to get back into the game, finally getting on the board with just over three minutes to play when Ryan Dmowski came up with his third goal in the last three games with the Bears. Kody Clark got the puck to Dmowski out of the corner, and the scorer made a nifty move to beat Nagle on the backhand. The Bears very nearly got the game tied in the dying moments of the game, with the goaltender pulled on a late power play. Garrett Pilon stashed the puck past Nagle on the wrong side of the buzzer by mere moments, and after a very brief review, it was determined to be a Phantoms win.
Couldn’t rewind to get the direct feed and this is the only angle with a clock, but was that ever close. pic.twitter.com/0p9ABeuIhE
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) December 22, 2021
The two teams rematch at the Giant Center on Wednesday to conclude play before the Christmas break. Lehigh Valley continues a recent hot streak, a 4-0-0-1 run in its last five games, while Hershey has lost its second straight. The rematch will be one of the few games left on the schedule and conclude a stretch of five games in six nights for the Chocolate and White.
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