The youth movement in Hershey continued to show results on Saturday evening, as the Bears topped rival club Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins for the second time this season, prevailing with a 4-3 shootout victory. With their slow start to the season behind them, Hershey is looking ahead to the future in the best way possible, bringing home two victories from their 7-game road trip, and finally securing a win at Giant Center on their homecoming night.
After a fight off the opening puck drop between leading goalscorer Liam O’Brien and Garrett Wilson, the Bears seemed to struggle finding their footing in the first period. Gifted two chances on the power play, Hershey was unable to convert on either opportunity, ending the period down 1-0 after an unassisted goal from Zach Aston-Reese. The second period, however, saw the experienced and veteran members of the Bears outshine their younger counterparts where it counts: on the scoreboard. Mike Sgarbossa, quickly becoming a familiar name around Chocolatetown, opened the scoring for the period at only 39 seconds on a goal assisted by Aaron Ness. The veteran players elevated not only their own play to meet the demands of the game at hand, but also appeared to help some of the younger players find their sparks. AHL rookie Beck Malenstyn showed grit and speed, resulting in Malenstyn’s first AHL goal along with multiple crushing hits in the third period.
Furthering the youth movement was rookie Shane Gersich, who came in clutch many times throughout the night, displaying his speed, stick handling, and awareness. This was perhaps no more evident than when he sealed Hershey’s victory in the shootout, beating Tristan Jarry handily after Riley Barber’s goal in round two. Saving both shots in the shootout, goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov came up with his first win of his AHL career on the same night that former Bears’ starting netminder Phoenix Copley deposited his first NHL win, with Samsonov stopping 19 of 22 shots over regulation plus overtime, and two shots during the shootout.
The blend of veteran leadership and the youthful essence of the rookies and young players on the ice seems to finally be paying dividends for Hershey in the ways that many fans had been hoping for: W’s. Now sporting a 3-6-0-1 record and moving out of last place in the Atlantic Division – the Providence Bruins now own that distinction – the Hershey Bears will play host to another heated divisional rival on Friday night, as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms roll into the Sweetest Arena on Earth for the first of their own 12-game season series with the Bears. Puck drops at 5 p.m. on AHL TV, Caps Radio 24/7, and local radio 100.1 WQIC.