Late Push Not Enough. Bears Take Game 1

Laczynski Scores in 3rd Period but Hershey Hangs on 2-1

May 1, 2024

Hershey, PA – A determined effort from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in a hard and physical game ultimately fell just short on Wednesday night as the Hershey Bears hung on for a 2-1 decision in Game 1 of their Best of 5 Atlantic Division semifinals series.

Baz Bastien Award winner Hunter Shepard was on top of his game and was the difference-maker in the series-opening win for the Chocolate and White with 30 saves on 31 shots including several biggies along the way.

Game 2 of the series is back in Hershey on Saturday night before the series switches to Phan Nation territory at PPL Center on Wednesday, May 8 and Saturday, May 11 for Games 3 and 4.

“I liked the effort,” Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere said. “We expected a start like they (had). It’s going to be a series of who’s going to win the net-front battles and they won one more.”

Tanner Laczynski broke through for the Phantoms with just 4:32 remaining on a nifty setup by Bobby Brink just as Lehigh Valley was pulling goaltender Cal Petersen for an extra-attacker. Cutting it to a one-goal margin late and carrying the momentum in the last minutes of the game had the GIANT Center crowd concerned and the Bears players gritting their teeth somewhat.

But a series of blocked shots and deflections was just enough to get the Bears to the finish line. Olle Lycksell’s one-timer from right point with two minutes left was Lehigh Valley’s best chance for the tying tally but Shepard handled that one just like he did the pucks offered his direction all night long.

“We just need to regroup,” Laperriere said. “And be a little bit better in our zone and be a little better in front of our net. It’s a great team…let’s be honest here. Nothing’s going to come easy.”

“They won’t give us any goals so we need to battle for those goals. Those kids have to realize that playoff goals don’t come easy. In the season they don’t come easy either. But in the playoffs it’s another level.”

Hershey raced out to a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game on a slot-tip by first-rounder Hendrix Lapierre on a center-point drive by Chase Priskie at 3:29 into the game.

Lapierre had another chance just moments later on a breakdown that allowed him to zoom in uncontested on a breakaway but his shot missed past the right-wing post and the Phantoms were able to tighten things up after that.

Cooper Marody had Lehigh Valley’s best chance in the first period. With just 30 seconds remaining, the Phantoms’ leading scorer dangled from the left and into the slot and shook off a Bears defender to suddenly find himself all alone at Shepard. But his shot aimed at the short side went of the body of Shepard who was positioned correctly.

The Phantoms would come even closer to scoring in the second period. Garrett Wilson was on the backdoor at the left of the crease on a steal and pass by Jacob Gaucher. But Shepard got there in time with the right pad to deny the potential equalizer from the Phantoms’ captain.

Later in the second period, Olle Lycksell sped up the right wing and cranked up a shot when he saw an opening from the defender. His chance off the rush beat Shepard but it off the far post and bounced away for perhaps Hershey’s biggest break of the night.

The Bears stretched their lead to 2-0 late in the second period off a speedy rush by fourth-line winger Bogdan Trineyev who turned the corner on Helge Grans and tried to stuff it in on the left-wing side of the net. Petersen got there for the initial save but Henrik Rybinski located the puck in the slot through traffic and pushed a quick rebound chance that just barely dribbled through five-hole on Petersen for a 2-0 Hershey advantage with 2:43 remaining in the second period.

Lehigh Valley almost got on the board early in the third period on a Brendan Furry chance right on top of the goal after a J-R Avon pass from the left-wing corner. But, yet again, Shepard was there to stuff the Grade-A scoring try.

Brink took control and carried up the right wing and behind the Hershey goal to set up Laczynski in the left slot for the lone Phantoms’ goal of the evening with 4:32 left. Laczynski got down to a knee to muscle his way to the puck and fling it to the upper-right corner to get Lehigh Valley on the board and make sure the Bears would be forced to sweat it all the way to the finish.

It was Laczynski’s third goal of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The top-line center scored a pair of third-period markers in Game 2 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Phantoms were aiming for yet another dramatic third-period comeback. But Hershey didn’t falter at the end and hung on for the win.

The defending Calder Cup Champions will host Game 2 of the Best-of-5 series on Saturday night at GIANT Center.

The series comes to PPL Center in Allentown for Games 3 and 4 of the series on Wednesday, May 8 and Saturday, May 11.

1st 3:29 – HER, H. Lapierre (1) (C. Priskie, E. Frank) (0-1)

2nd 17:17 – HER, H. Rybinski (1) (M. Strome, B. Trinyev) (0-2)

3rd 15:28 – LV, T. Laczynski (3) (B. Brink, R. Attard) (1-2)

LV 31 – HER 28

LV 0/0, HER 0/0

LV – C. Petersen (L) (2-1) (26/28)
HER – H. Shepard (W) (1-0) (30/31)

Hershey leads 1-0 in Best-of-5 Series.


Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Game 2 – Saturday, May 4 (7:00) at Hershey
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 8 (7:05) at Lehigh Valley
Game 4 – Saturday, May 11 (7:05) at Lehigh Valley
Game 5 – Sunday, May 12 (7:00) at Hershey