Vitek Vanecek Leads the Hershey Bears to a 4-1 Victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack

Photo: Tori Hartman

On a night in which their parent club Washington Capitals came away with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs north of the border, the Hershey Bears also emerged victorious over the Hartford Wolf Pack in a Saturday night battle that happened to be Hartford’s Teddy Bear Toss Night.Youngster Vitek Vanacek got the nod in net from Bears Head Coach Troy Mann in just his second game back from injury this season. The Bears’ forward lines and defensive pairs looked like this for the game:

M. Mitchell-Sill-Peluso

Bears defenseman Tommy Hughes spent four seasons with the Wolf Pack and tonight marked his first game as an opposing player in Hartford. Connor Hobbs, John Albert, Garrett Mitchell, and Kris Bindulis were the scratches for Coach Mann

First Period

Early in the first period, Vanacek made some key stops to keep the score knotted at zero. Just three minutes and 18 seconds into the contest, Bears forward Mathias Bau scored his sixth goal of the 2017-18 season to give the Chocolate and White the lead at 1-0. Both Hubert Labrie and Hampus Gustafsson were credited with assists on the goal; his assist marked Gustafsson’s first point of the season. Bears forward Anthony Peluso was called for roughing at the 12:29 mark of the first period, giving the Wolf Pack their first power play opportunity of the night. Coming into tonight’s contest, the Pack led the Atlantic Division in power play goal conversions with a conversion rate of 23.4%. Fortunately, Hershey was able to keep the Wolf Pack from finding the net. Hartford drew a penalty  and sat for two minutes before Peluso’s penalty had expired and the the teams played 4-on-4 hockey for 10 seconds. With just minutes to play in the first, Vanecek came up with a huge 2-on-1 save to keep the Pack scoreless.

Defenseman Lucas Johansen inadvertently found right wing Riley Barber at the 18:27 mark, firing a puck on net that was initially denied by Hartford goaltender Chris Nell, but Barber was able to gather the loose puck and put it in to give the Bears the 2-0 lead at the end of 20 minutes of play. This goal was Barber’s fifth goal of the season, and ironically, Johansen scored his first professional goal against the Wolf Pack earlier this season.

Second Period

Vanecek continued to be the pace-setter for the Bears, as he opened the middle frame with more great saves on Hartford, and his teammates paid him back soon thereafter. Bears blueliner Colby Williams was called for slashing at the 06:58 mark of the second period, giving the Wolf Pack their second power play of the contest. Bears forward Zach Sill improved the Bears’ lead to 3-0 while Hershey was still shorthanded, scoring his first goal in 10 months (his last goal came in January); Labrie was credited with his second assist of the contest on the goal. The goal seemed to deflate the Wolf Pack, as Hartford began to play seemingly without much energy as the Chocolate and White continued to press.

Forward Mason Mitchell beat Nell glove side at the 15:04 mark of the middle frame for his first professional goal, one that extended Hershey’s lead to a commanding 4-0. As as a result of the fourth tally, the Wolf Pack opted for a goaltending change, with Alexandar Georgiev taking Nell’s place between the pipes to finish out the game.

Third Period

Bears defenseman Tyler Lewington was called for slashing just five minutes into the third period, giving the Wolf Pack their third power play opportunity of the night. Fortunately for Lewington, Hershey successfully held off the Wolf Pack and continued to keep Hartford off the score sheet. Bears defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler and Hartford’s Cole Schneider were sent to the penalty box at the 18:07 mark of the final period on matching minor penalties, subsequently resulting in a 4-on-4. Vanecek left the net to gather a loose puck and turned it over, almost resulting in a Hartford goal and the release of the Teddy Bears.

With time winding down in the final frame, and just over three minutes to play in regulation, the Wolf Pack’s Adam Tambellini managed to put a puck past Vanecek to spoil his shutout bid and release the array of Teddy Bears. Bear Jeremy Langlois was sent to the penalty box for tripping with 2:23 left to play, giving Hartford one more chance on the power play. Hartford failed to convert yet again and finished the night 0-4 on the man-advantage, while the Bears finished 0-3. Vanecek had a great night between the pipes and was rewarded for his effort by being named the Third Star of the Game. The Bears outshot the Wolf Pack 30-28 in the contest. The Bears are next in action on Sunday at home to host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Giant Center.

By Allison Shuey

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