Connor McMichael Scores Again, Ethen Frank Scores Twice, Bears Beat Phantoms, 4-2

Screen cap: AHL TV

The Hershey Bears beat the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 4-2, Wednesday night at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA. Ethen Frank scored two goals and Connor McMichael scored his 6th goal since returning to the Bears in the win. The Bears record improves to 20-6-2-1 (43 points) on the season, which remains the best in the AHL.


Hunter Shepard (6-0-2-0, 1.83 GAA, .932 sv%) got the start in goal for the Bears. Pat Nagle (0-1-1-0, 3.95 GAA, .901 sv%) got the start between the pipes for the Phantoms. The forward lines and defensive pairs for the Bears:

Mike Vecchione –Mike Sgarbossa – Ethen Frank
Henrik Borgstrom – Connor McMichael – Sam Anas
Mason Morelli – Hendrix Lapierre –Shane Gersich
Kale Kessy – Riley Sutter – Matt Strome

Lucas Johansen – Aaron Ness
Gabriel Carlsson – Dylan McIlrath
Jake Massie – Vinny Iorio

Scratches: Garrett Pilon (lower body injury), Bobby Nardella (upper body injury), Henrik Rybinski (upper body injury), Julian Napravnik (illness), Logan Day and Michael Kim.

Recalled/Re-assigned: The Capitals returned defenseman Lucas Johansen and goaltenders Zach Fucale and Hunter Shepard to Hershey on Monday (12/19). The Bears also returned Tyler Wall to ECHL South Carolina.


The Bears struck first with a tally from Ethen Frank (9) at 6:00 of the first frame. Frank would gather the loose change and pitch a backhander for the score. Jake Massie (4) and Mike Vecchione (14) had the assists.

The Phantoms tied the game with a little over a minute remaining in the opening stanza. Artem Anisimov (9) notched the tying tally at 18:42 of the period. Olle Lycksell (12) had the assist.

But Lehigh Valley wasn’t done for the period. Elliot Desnoyers (11) gave the Phantoms their first lead of the game with 53 seconds remaining. Kieffer Bellows (5) and Adam Ginning (6) had the helpers.

The period concluded with the Phantoms leading 2-1. The Phantoms led in shots 15-6 in the first period.


The Bears were awarded an early power play to start the middle frame, but were unable to convert, dropping their power play success rate to 15 of 99 on the season, 28th in the AHL.

The Phantoms were awarded their first man advantage of the game midway through the middle frame, but were unable to convert.

Sam Anas left the game midway through the period after falling into the board and did not return.

The Bears tied the game on Connor McMichael‘s 6th with the Bears at 11:05 of the middle frame. Matt Strome (1) and Dylan McIlrath (7) had the helpers.

The second period concluded with the game tied, 2-2. Shots on goal were tied 9-9 in the middle frame, with the Phantoms leading 24-15 after two periods. Both teams were 0 for 2 on the power play after two periods.


The Bears took the lead midway through the final frame on Ethen Frank‘s (10) second goal of the game. The go-ahead marker came on the power play at 10:22 of the third period. Aaron Ness (6) amd Mike Sgarbossa (12) had the assists.

Mason Morelli (5) added an empty net goal for the 4-2 final. Shane Gersich recorded his 100th career AHL point on the goal.

The Bears now enter the Christmas break and will return to action next Wednesday, December 27th, when they face the Penguins in Wilkes-Barre.


  • AHL box score
  • Attendance: 4,778
  • Lehigh Valley led in shots 29-23.
  • It was Hunter Shepard’s first start in goal since 11/29.
  • Shepard stopped 27 of 29 shots for a .931 game save percentage.
  • Bears are 5-0-0-0 against the Phantoms.

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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23 Responses to Connor McMichael Scores Again, Ethen Frank Scores Twice, Bears Beat Phantoms, 4-2

  1. Jon Sorensen says:

    Bears reach 20 wins in 29 games. That’s the second-quickest in franchise history. The 2020-21 (Covid) year the Bears reached 20 wins in 28 games. They are the best in the AHL, and when you consider they could be adding a big name or two as players return from injury in Washington, this team could be one of the all-time best. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself 🙂

  2. novafyre says:

    And Clay to SC.

    Looks like McM’s return to Hershey has been good for him. Has his confidence back. Has he been playing center all games since his return?

    • Anonymous says:

      Has Clay to SC been confirmed? I haven’t seen it announced anywhere.

      • Anonymous says:

        He’s not shown on either roster right now.

        • Novafyre says:

          I remarked about that omission when I first posted the announcement of his reassignment from both websites. Haven’t a clue why not.

      • Novafyre says:

        The announcement is on both Bears and Stingrays websites.

        • Anonymous says:

          Why so secretive? They (Bears) made a public announcement when Tyler Wall was sent down.

          • novafyre says:

            It is strange. Still not there. It’s not as though an injury is keeping him off because the Rays have been showing Garin Bjorklund since he was sent down by the Caps and he has been injured the whole time — has not faced a single shot.

    • KimRB says:

      I’ve only seen CMac at center, usually between Anas and Morelli. I noticed Lapierre cooled down quite a bit, when he lost those two wingers, and was given Borgstrom and Rabynski.

      I see the lineup in the article has Morelli back on Hendrix’s line. I didn’t notice that last night, but I wasn’t paying really close attention to the lines. I’m guessing that was a move to jump start Hendrix

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ethen Frank has been extremely impressive.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Another Danny Brooks free agent gem. Up there with Nardella, Snively and Stevenson.

      • KimRB says:

        I want his job, Jon!

        “Hey, should we sign the #1 goal scorer in the NCAA?”

        “Uhhmmm, sure, why not?”

        “You’re a genius!”

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          I am a huge fan of Brooks. He not only spots undrafted players that make the NHL (Snively), but he is also an excellent recruiter. Many of these players get several offers from other teams, like Clay Stevenson, but end up choosing the Caps. That’s Brooks. He started with the team as a general scout but was recently promoted to “Director Of Player Recruitment” which is also reflective of his ability to find and sign players.

          • KimRB says:

            I know, was just playing.

            A lot of people who comment on hockey blogs think being a GM is a big game of fantasy hockey, but they forget there’s a human element to all this. With the salary cap being flat, it seems it’s more important all the time to identify, and get signed, previously overlooked talent

            • Jon Sorensen says:

              Yep, I know.

              I am supposed to be impartial but can’t help promote the virtues of Brooks. In my opinion he’s done a tremendous job in a relatively short period of time.

              He’s also impacted the draft, with all of the recent college kids added to the prospect pool. The results of that remain to be seen, but I have faith.

    • KimRB says:

      Yuh, he’s been a big time college scorer, and he’s continued at the pro level. Led the NCAA in goals last year. Looks like he has the tools to score at the NHL level

  4. dwgie26 says:

    Ethan Frank has the tools to play in the NHL. Should get an NHL contract soon (we have 2 available right now). I believe he will get 3 years/80 games of waiver exempt status. Even if we sign him this year and we burn the first year, that would be fine with me.

    Absolutely love see McMichael thrive and get that swerve back!

    And yes, he has played Centre the whole time he has been in Hershey. In fact he has been the 2C since he got back. Lapierre as 3C.

    • Novafyre says:

      I felt at the time that Lavi moving him all around was not helping him or caps. He’s not the Swiss army knife that Lavi prefers.

    • @Puckstop31_ says:

      I think he can develop the tools to be a middle 6 forward in the NHL. His defensive game has improved noticeably and he plays the body a LOT more. Dishing it instead of just getting hit all the time. If he can put on 10 lbs…. I notice them setting him up in the “Ovi Spot” on the PP now. But most of all, the man just has a wicked shot. My wife and I holler “laser!” when he gets in a scoring spot.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Best in AHL. That’s amazing.

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