HERSHEY — Vitek Vanecek stopped 24 shots to lead the Hershey Bears to a 4-2 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday night at Giant Center.
The victory was Hershey's third straight on home ice and improved the club to 12-11-0-3 on the season.
The Bears controlled the game early and led 2-0 through 40 minutes of play. Hershey opened the the scoring in the first period as Lucas Johansen struck on the power play at 7:36. Riley Barber and Mathias Bau dug the puck out of the corner and centered to Johansen. The defender stood at the top of the crease and slid a shot through the five-hole of Lehigh Valley goaltender Dustin Tokarski to make it 1-0.
Vanecek stole the show in the first period, stopping nine shots, including a highlight-reel save on the AHL's leading goal scorer, Danick Martel. The forward raced in alone, but Vanecek kicked out his right pad to take away a sure goal.
The Bears added to the lead in the second period as Chris Bourque scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season. After Wayne Simpson's shot was denied by Tokarski, Bourque swatted the rebound out of mid-air to make it 2-0 Bears.
The third period saw the two teams trade goals. After Oskar Lindblom struck on a rebound at 2:13 for the Phantoms, Hershey captain Garrett Mitchell responded at 3:54 to regain Hershey's two-goal lead.
At 4:48 the Phantoms scored again, as Mikhail Vorobyev tapped a back-door pass into the net to make it 3-2. But once again Hershey had an answer. Barber added his second assist of the night, stealing the puck from T.J. Brennan, and finding Tyler Graovac in the slot. In his first game back with Hershey, Graovac lifted a shot over the glove of Tokarski to provide Hershey some much needed insurance.
Vanecek improved to 3-2-0 on the season, winning his third consecutive start. Hershey's penalty kill was perfect for the fifth straight game, going 5-for-5. The Bears were 1-for-5 on the power play, and were outshot 26-23.
The Bears end the week Sunday against rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at 5 p.m.