With the midway point of the 2010-11 American Hockey League season already behind us, all 30 teams await the 2011 All-Star Classic in the coming week.
As we move game by game closer to the All-Star Classic in Hershey, both the Adirondack Phantoms and the Hershey Bears looked for a comfortable spot in the standings going into the break. Sunday night the Adirondack Phantoms traveled to Hershey from upstate New York to meet the Bears.
Prior to Sunday’s contest, Adirondack played the challenging Hamilton Bulldogs at the Glens Falls Civic Center Saturday night. The Phantoms held a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission, however the home town team could not hold the lead in front of their fans. Ultimately Hamilton fought off Adirondack in a shootout, 4-3.
The Bears are coming out of a game Saturday against the Rochester Americans. Through the first 40 minutes of the game, the Bears only had a one-goal lead to work with. The Bears’ offense took over in the third period and scored three times to put away Rochester, 5-1.
The Bears entered the duel tied for third in the East Division with Charlotte. After the Phantoms’ third shootout loss of the season, they entered play in the bottom of the East Division, with a record of 13-27-2-3.
The rivalry between the Bears and the Phantoms resumed, as Hershey tried to sustain pressure on former NHL netminder Michael Leighton right out of the gate.
Early on, Hershey out shot the Phantoms, 6-1, but either side had about an equal number of major opportunities. Phantoms forward Eric Wellwood had one of the better chances when he came in on a shorthanded breakaway, but was denied by Bears goalie Dany Sabourin
The first period would very quickly come to a close, with a scoreless start. The Bears out shot the Phantoms, 9-5, but all five saves by Sabourin were Grade A scoring chances for Adirondack. Hershey faced one power play midway through the period, that the Phantoms successfully killed off. Joe Paterson’s Phantoms did not earn a single power play in the period.
With the second period play beginning, the game would not stay scoreless for much longer. About two minutes into the middle period, Francois Bouchard for Hershey snapped a loose puck past Leighton for his sixth goal of the season to give Hershey a 1-0 lead.
Just moments later, the momentum swing for the Bears continued to work in their favor. Patrick Wellar jammed a puck short side, through Leighton and into the net to double the Bears lead to 2-0.
As frustration mounted in Adirondack’s corner, Andrew Gordon slipped a soft shot low to the ice to give the Bears a three-goal lead.
That would be all the action in the second period after many chances on net for Hershey. Sabourin would not see any great scoring opportunities in the middle stanza. Hershey did a great job winning 50-50 battles for the puck in all areas of the ice.
The Phantoms in the period, tried to mimic the system the Philadelphia Flyers use to succeed. On defense, the Orange and White sent one man deep to aggressively play the puck carrier. The down side to that for the Phantoms, is that a passing lane would open up for Hershey that could generate a scoring chance.
The third period began, and the Phantoms needed to score in a hurry, and in any way, shape, or form. Just 3:05 into the final period, Michael Ryan scored a power play goal when his shot fluttered slowly in the air past Sabourin to cut the Bears lead to two at 3-1.
Moments later, Sheldon Souray unleashed a rocket beating Leighton clean to make it 4-1 on Hershey’s 16th shot of the game. Leighton’s off night would only continue to get worse as Brian Willsie snapped a shot past the Phantoms netminder on Hershey’s 20th shot.
The Bears ended their home stretch with a 5-1 victory and outscored their opponents during that span, 18-3.
The Bears return to the ice on January 26th when they take on the Springfield Falcons for the only time this season at Giant Center at 7 p.m.