HERSHEY — The Hershey Bears welcomed the Laval Rocket to Giant Center for the first time in franchise history and walked away with a 6-3 victory on Saturday evening. Mathias Bau hit pay-dirt for the first time in 23 games and tallied twice, earning first star honors.
A track meet opening frame saw each team trade two goals a piece after the Chocolate and White started the night on a 7-0 shot run. At 9:47, Hershey drew first blood after executing a 3-on-2 odd-man rush. Chris Bourque earned his 50th point of the regular season with the primary assist after setting up Mathias Bau on a cross-ice feed. Bau banged in his 10th goal of the season and his first since late December, beating Laval goaltender Charlie Lindgren flailing to his right.
With Hershey pressing to double their lead, a Lindgren stop eventually fueled a Laval breakaway which tied the contest. Nikita Korostelev scored his first American Hockey League goal at 15:42 to draw the game even following a quick stretch pass through the middle of the ice.
A quick response by the Bears saw them grab a 2-1 lead courtesy of team captain Garrett Mitchell. A quick snapshot from the slot glanced off the bottom of the cross-bar and into the net for Mitchell's seventh goal of the season at 16:18.
The Rocket would see a late power play opportunity in the period and scored to knot the game prior to intermission. Following a Jonas Siegenthaler high-sticking minor at 18:11, Adam Cracknell scored on a rebound for his 27th goal of the season only 14 seconds later.
The scoring frenzy continued in the second period, and the Chocolate and White struck two more times on odd-man rushes to grab a 4-2 lead. At 4:44, Dustin Gazley finished a crisp centering feed from Jeremy Langlois for his 10th goal of the season, beating Lindgren to his left. At 7:04, Gazley and Langlois combined for another pretty goal on a transition play up ice. This time, Gazley broke into the offensive zone with speed along the left wing and funneled the puck to the inside. A drop pass in the low-slot to an open Langlois led to Hershey's first multi-goal lead of the night.
Laval pulled within one late in the frame on their second breakaway goal of the evening. Following a turnover in the neutral zone, Antoine Waked beat Bears goaltender Pheonix Copley past the blocker to make it 4-3 at 17:12.
The Bears went to just their second power play of the night in the third period following a Matt Petgrave tripping minor at 4:20, and the Chocolate and White took advantage. Against the bottom ranked penalty kill in the American Hockey League, Bau scored his second goal of the night from a sharp angle to make it 5-3. Madison Bowey wheeled the puck from the point down towards the goal line and distributed to an open Bau for the finish at 6:05.
Hershey's lead climbed to a game-high three goals later in the frame on more secondary scoring. From the slot, an open Hampus Gustafsson rounded out the scoring by redirecting a Kris Bindulis drive from the center point to open the score to 6-3 at 13:25.
The victory improved Hershey's record to 29-33-4-5 on the regular season, while Laval slides to 24-38-7-2. The Bears out shot Laval 38-23.