The last time the Hershey Bears lost in regulation was at Syracuse on January 9, so when they visited Onondaga County War Memorial Arena 20 days later, they were looking to avenge that 4-2 decision.
Although they got off to a slow start, the Bears staged yet another comeback, this time in the second period, and hung on down the stretch through a 6-on-4 Syracuse advantage for the 5-3 victory in the first of the two-night home-and-home series.
Travis Boyd scored on the Power Play at 6:26 in the first to bring the Bears to within 2-1 after Syracuse had scored the opening two goals on Justin Peters. Boyd’s goal was assisted by Paul Carey and Scott Gomez, who currently has one goal and eight assists in just seven games with the Bears.
Then early in the second, Liam O’Brien scored an unassisted goal to tie the game. Minutes later, Garrett Mitchell game the Chocolate and White their first lead of the game off an assist from Connor Carrick.
After a short-handed goal by Syracuse, Dustin Gazley, playing in his first game after being a healthy scratch for three games in a row, netted his tenth goal of the season during a 4-on-4 as Blunden was in the penalty box for Syracuse for elbowing and Carey was in the box for the Bears for slashing.
The Bears hung on to the 3-2 lead through the remainder of the second and a majority of the third period, but things got very interesting late in the game when O’Brien took a two-minute delay of game penalty at 17:44 and then Mitchell was called for tripping at 19:01.
Syracuse opted to pull Wilcox with a little over 2 minutes to go in the, so the Power Play turned into a 6-on-4 advantage for the Crunch until Sean Collins scored an empty net goal with 65 seconds to go in the game to secure the win for the Bears.
With both teams traveling to Hershey for a rematch Sunday, Mann decided to roll out the same line-up and got the same result, this time a 5-1 drubbing of the Crunch.
Syracuse once again got on the board first despite many chances by the Bears that went wide or over the net. Nathan Walker finally got the Bears on the board at 18:09 when he took a feed from Riley Barber who was below the goal line and fed the puck through the goal crease to Walker.
Carter Camper put the Bears up for good in the second period when Gazley, who was also below the goal line, sent the pass to Camper who fired to while getting decked from behind. Then the night turned into the Riley Barber Show.
Barber completed the first Hat Trick in Hershey since Casey Wellman’s playoff hat trick on May 1 last year. Wellman had the last regular season hat trick as well, but that came November 14, 2013 in Charlotte according to Scott Stuccio.
Barber’s first goal came late in the second period with assists going to Bowey and Gomez, who skated the puck into the zone and dropped it for Barber. The second was a Power Play goal 61 seconds into the third period. Boyd fired a shot that was deflected off the boards to the right of Gudlevskis, and the puck bounced Barber’s way. The final goal was an Empty Net goal from center ice with 25 seconds to go in the game.
Dan Ellis came up with some huge saves in the third period to help preserve the Hershey win as well.
The pair of wins coupled with a Portland loss sent Hershey to the All-Star Break in second place in the Atlantic Division. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton also lost Sunday, so the Bears gained some ground on the division leaders as well.
The Bears went 2 for 8 on the Power Play for the weekend. The Penalty Kill was 9 for 10.
Jakub Vrana served his two-game suspension for a cross-checking incident against Albany on January 27, paving the way for Gazley’s return to the lineup. With Ryan Stanton’s return from Washington, Mike Moore was scratched both games against Syracuse. Chris Brown, Caleb Herbert, and Joey Leach have all been scratched (healthy) in five straight games.
News came Monday that Zach Sill was recalled to Washington with the injury to Marcus Johansson.
Carrick and Chris Bourque competed Monday for the Atlantic Division in the AHL All-Star Classic in Syracuse. The Atlantic Division fell in the championship 4-0 to the Central Division. Bourque had two goals and two assists for the Atlantic Division. Carrick notched one assist.
The Bears travel to Binghamton Friday before returning to Giant Center for a Saturday match-up with Lehigh Valley. Binghamton travels to Hershey Sunday for a 2:00 start due to Super Bowl 50. Bridgeport will be in Hershey Wednesday (February 10) for the make-up game due to the snow from Jonas.
Dan Ellis – 1-0 – 24 saves on 25 shots
Justin Peters – 1-0 – 34 saves on 37 shots
Chandler Stephenson – upper-body injury (Jan. 2)
Tyler Lewington – upper-body injury (week-to-week)
Weekly Stars Report (opponent)
1. Peters (Fri.), Barber (Sat.)
2. Gomez (Fri.)
3. Ellis (Fri.)
Both Burgdoerfer and Gazley are AHL-only contract players.
Scott Gomez was signed to a PTO on January 15
By Julie Beidler