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Poor Effort Costs Bears in Utica

#AHL | A poor effort from @TheHersheyBears helped the @UticaComets to a shutout Friday night. @FPHBears recaps the night in his latest.

Poor Effort Costs Bears in Utica

UTICA, NY. – Although the Hershey Bears had almost a week off due to the All-Star festivities, it appears as though that time off didn’t help them reset for their return to action as the team turned in a subpar effort on the road in a 3-0 shutout loss to the Utica Comets. Jack Dugan’s goal in the second period proved to be enough as Akira Schmid stopped all 19 shots fired his way to help the Comets break a four-game losing streak. Zach Fucale took the loss in goal for the Bears with 30 saves, as Hershey found themselves losing for the fourth time in five games.

It’s a difficult game to describe in full for the Bears. The Chocolate and White survived an early onslaught by the host Comets, getting outshot by a 12-2 count in the first period and escaping with no score, thanks to Fucale’s strong play. One such highlight came on a chance below the hash marks as Fucale made the save on a two-on-none situation, easily one of the best saves of the game. Hershey’s netminder did his share of the work with 21 saves through two frames. Fucale’s heroics also included a penalty shot save on Graeme Clarke.

Dugan’s goal came just over six minutes into the middle stanza on a bit of good puck luck. Dugan got stuck behind the play in Hershey’s end after getting tangled up with the referee following a Utica chance, but when Hershey took it the other way on the rush, the shot went high and around the glass the other way. Dugan was positioned perfectly at the blue line to take the puck on the rush and beat Fucale to open the scoring. Utica added to the lead in the third with Nolan Foote’s 15th of the season, and an empty net goal sealed the deal for the Comets.

It adds up to a disappointing effort for the Bears, who fell out of first place thanks to the Providence Bruins’ comeback win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night, a spot the team has held onto since late November. It’s hard to draw a lot of positives about the team’s offensive output, as the few strong chances the team had were misfired. Garrett Pilon’s crossbar hit was the team’s best chance, but the team has been blanked two times in this recent stretch. With the rest of their Atlantic Division competition surging and on streaks, these struggles come at a bad time as the team looks to take command of their remaining schedule.

The Bears will race their opponent back to Hershey for Saturday’s game as the Hartford Wolf Pack are traveling in off a loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday. Hershey will look to get back on track at home after two uncharacteristic losses at Giant Center lately, and that may serve as a catalyst to get the team back on track before hitting the road for three games. It serves as a reminder of how difficult the Atlantic Division has been to succeed in, and the Bears will want to correct course as to not fall further in the standings.

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