Bears Clinch Postseason Berth with 4-1 Win Over Crunch

March 25, 2023 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Hershey Bears News Release

(Syracuse, NY)-The Hershey Bears (38-16-5-3) clinched their 70th playoff berth in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Syracuse Crunch (30-24-5-3) on Saturday night at Upstate Medical University Arena.

The Bears needed a win of any variety to secure a spot in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs following Hartford's 4-0 loss to Springfield earlier this evening. With the win, the game marked the earliest date Hershey had clinched a playoff spot since the 2009-10 campaign (March 6).

The victory also extended the point streak for the Bears to five games (4-0-0-1).

Hunter Shepard turned in a phenomenal save for the Bears midway through the opening frame when Simon Ryfors drove to the Hershey net, and the Crunch forward's backhand shot created a rebound for Cole Koepke, which Shepard kept pinned to the goal line with the toe of his pads and keep the game scoreless.

Seconds later, the Bears took a 1-0 lead when Beck Malenstyn stole the puck from Sean Day in the left corner and fed the puck to Shane Gersich in the slot, who buried his sixth of the season on Hugo Alnefelt at 10:16.

Mike Sgarbossa collected his 20th of the season for Hershey with an unassisted goal at 5:17 of the second frame when he stole the puck from Philippe Myers at the red line and raced up the ice on a breakaway before beating Alnefelt low to the blocker side to make it 2-0.

A hit on Julian Napravnik by Syracuse's Daniel Walker prompted a scrap between Walker and Bears captain Dylan McIlrath at 15:28.

The Crunch got on the board with a goal from Daniel Walcott at 19:04 when the forward received a pass from Gabriel Fortier at the net front and elevated the puck over the shoulder of Shepard to bring the hosts to within a goal.

The Bears restored the two-goal advantage at 8:09 of the third when Connor McMichael sent a pass from the right side to Gabriel Carlsson at the left circle, and the defenseman's shot off the right shoulder of Alnefelt rebounded to Napravnik, who put home his fourth of the season to make it 3-1.

Mike Vecchione closed out the scoring with an unassisted empty-net goal at 17:56 for his 22nd of the season.

Shots finished 34-28 in favor of the Crunch. Shepard went 33-for-34 for Hershey to get his 16th victory of the season; Alnefelt was 24-for-27 for Syracuse. The Bears were 0-for-2 on the power play; the Crunch finished 0-for-2 with the man advantage.

Hershey continues the 2022-23 season, presented by Penn State Health, when the Chocolate and White return home to GIANT Center where they will host the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for Dreamer's Hollow Children's Night, presented by Members 1st Federal Credit Union on Sunday, March 26 at 5 p.m. Purchase tickets for the game.

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