HERSHEY, Pa. – Hershey Bears forward Connor McMichael scored his first professional hat trick on Saturday afternoon. The performance lifted his team to a 3-1 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Giant Center. Hershey goaltender Zach Fucale made his Bears debut and stopped 34 shots to earn his first win of the season.
Wilkes-Barre got on the board first during a four-minute double minor assessed on Bears forward Blake Pietila. Zach Nastasiuk deflected a shot from the point zipped right past Fucale to give the Penguins the early lead. Hershey responded on a power play of their own when McMichael got his first tally in a very similar fashion to his first goal back at Mohegan Sun Arena earlier this season by batting a loose puck past Penguins goaltender Max Legace (27 saves) to even the count at one.
Hershey got the goal that ultimately stood up as the game-winning tally in the second period when McMichael jumped out and poked the puck through the legs of a Wilkes-Barre defender at his own blue line and rushed in on a breakaway. His shot was perfectly placed to finish the play and remind everyone at Giant Center why he was selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
You’re going to want to watch this absolute beauty by Connor McMichael. pic.twitter.com/dCkEizHafE
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) February 20, 2021
The Bears were able to seal the deal on the empty net when McMichael fired from his own zone and nailed the target to make it 3-1 for the hosts, who earned their first win on home ice this season. Fucale’s great play was the difference-maker in the game, as the 25-year-old made several key saves to make the one-goal lead stand up. Fucale had not played a game since December 19, when he stopped 35 shots in a win for the South Carolina Stingrays and looked like he had not missed a beat in Saturday’s game.
Connor McMichael's first professional hat trick propelled us to a 3-1 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Here are the S&T Bank Highlights from this afternoon's game. #HBH pic.twitter.com/NAL5ujfWyi
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) February 20, 2021
The win lifts the Bears to 3-0-2-0 on the season, good for second in the North Division and only shy of first place due to idle Lehigh Valley’s better points percentage. The Penguins fall to 1-2-1-0 in the early going this season.
The two teams will rematch on Wednesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 5:00 PM EST in the last matchup for about a month.