Smith-Pelley scores hat trick, Bears snap losing skid in Hartford


(Note: Hershey Bears Press Release)

Devante Smith-Pelly scored a hat-trick to help the Hershey Bears to a 5-3 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday afternoon at the XL Center. Smith-Pelly’s three goals marked his second career AHL hat-trick, and first in over five years dating back to Feb. 18, 2014. 

Easily overshadowed in the Bears victory, Hartford’s Vinni Lettieri also tallied a hat-trick for the Wolf Pack, and opened the scoring in the first period. On the man-advantage after Mike Sgarbossa was boxed for high-sticking at 11:26, Letteieri beat Vitek Vanecek low to break the ice with the game’s first goal. The Wolf Pack out shot the Bears 15-7 in the opening frame, but the Chocolate and White found the equalizer before intermission. Smith-Pelly redirected an Aaron Ness shot for his first goal as a member of the Bears at 17:29 to even the score. Ness’ primary assist marked his 40th helper of the season. 

Next period, Hartford regained a 2-1 advantage only 30 seconds after the opening puck drop at center. John Gilmour threw the puck on net, and Lettieri buried the rebound into an open cage. The Bears again responded minutes later courtesy of their special teams. Hershey’s power play saw their first nod of the game after a Ryan Gropp cross-checking infraction at 4:01. The second power play unit for the Bears hit pay-dirt shortly after to snap an 0-for-10 drought. Garrett Pilon wired a shot past Hartford goaltender Adam Huska to tie the game at 5:53. Shots after 40 minutes were 20-13 Hartford with the score even. 

Into the third, the Bears dictated the pace and out shot the Wolf Pack, 17-8 in the stanza. Smith-Pelly gave the Chocolate and White their first lead of the night only 1:54 in after burying a chance on an odd-man rush. Jayson Megna added insurance at 8:53 on Hershey’s second power play goal of the night on a redirection at the net front. The Bears power play finished the night 2-for-5. 

Hartford received a two-man advantage for 1:16 with 4:37 left in regulation, enabling Lettieri to complete his hat-trick. A blast from the right point brought Hartford within one-goal just six seconds after the 5-on-3 became a 5-on-4. Hershey’s penalty kill finished the night at 2-for-4. 

Only 44 seconds after Lettieri completed his hat-trick, the Bears responded, and Smith-Pelly cleaned up a loose puck in the blue paint to complete a hat-trick of his own. After Nathan Walker was stopped on a breakaway, Smith-Pelly crashed the crease and slid the loose biscuit into the net to round out a 5-3 final. 

The victory snapped a four-game losing skid for the Bears (0-1-2-1), and stretched the team’s winning streak at the XL Center in Hartford to five straight games, dating back to last season. The Bears improve their record to 33-22-2-4 on the season in the win. 

The Hershey Bears return to action on Wednesday, Mar. 13 for a 7 p.m. tilt against the Springfield Thunderbirds. It’s Hersheypark Pass Night at Giant Center for all fans in attendance. 

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