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Prospects Shine in Caps Preseason Opener

Prospects Shine in Caps Preseason Opener

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Capitals, NHL affiliate to the Hershey Bears, opened their preseason slate with a prospect-heavy lineup against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena. The Capitals had several names on the ice who have spent significant time in Hershey over the last few seasons, with the team’s expected goaltending tandem of Hunter Shepard and Zach Fucale taking half of the game between the pipes and a few incoming players to keep an eye out for in Chocolatetown. Despite some key performances, the Sabres snagged a 4-3 win in overtime and a win in seven rounds in the practice shootout.

Among the familiar faces, Joe Snively made a significant impression on the game with a deflection goal and a presence on the ice in all situations, much like his time in Hershey. He came up large in the shootout with Washington’s lone tally, and his goal gave the team a lead in the final stanza on an impressive assist from the incoming defender Vincent Iorio, who was the team’s best defender in this contest. His impressive awareness was on full display, making good decisions at both ends of the ice and a smart point shot for Snively to deflect. Hendrix Lapierre, the organization’s other top prospect, made a name for himself at the faceoff dot with seven wins in nine draws and generating offense.

Perhaps most noticeable was Aliaksei Protas, who made several outstanding plays at the offensive end with Caps regular Conor Sheary, including a beautiful assist through a defender for Washington’s second goal. Protas used his size to his advantage on the forecheck, dug in to get a few wins, and stepped in to play center when needed. In goal, it was a solid performance for Fucale and Shepard, who each had two goals against, with Fucale stopping 15 of 17 and 9 of 11 for Shepard. Shepard had the shootout action with five saves in seven shootout attempts. None of the goals against were the fault of the goaltenders, with screens and deflections being the main tools to Buffalo’s success.

Longtime Hershey forward Garrett Pilon had a solid game despite not getting on the scoresheet, teaming up with Haakon Hanelt and Ryan Hofer to generate a few good chances. Washington’s pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft Alex Suzdalev had a few good opportunities and looks to be a name to watch out for in the future for Bears fans as an exciting addition when the time comes. Sunday’s game was the first look at former Bears head coach Scott Allen behind the bench with the Capitals after being promoted to the big club over the summer, running the team’s defensive side along with head coach Peter Laviolette as the new staff settles in. Washington travels to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday evening; preseason hockey will get underway for the Bears a week from that date when the Chocolate and White travel to Wilkes-Barre.

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