Saturday night the Hershey Bears were back in action for their second game of their three games in three nights stretch. Just 24 hours since an eight-goal outburst, the Bears looked to continue the hot scoring against the Rochester Americans.
Previous to Saturday, the Bears beat up on the Albany Devils in a 8-3 victory. It was the most penalized game of the season for either team, as seven fights took place in Hershey, on top of a combined 11 goals in the game.
The Americans made their way to Hershey, after escaping Syracuse by the skin of their teeth. P.J. Fenton scored the game winner for Rochester Friday, way back in the second period. A great goaltending performance by Jacob Markstrom making 35 saves held the Syracuse Crunch to a 2-1 defeat.
As play started, the Bears looked for an early start similar to their previous game, and win number 25 of the season. The Americans would look to climb back into the bulk of the North Division, but they have a lot of ground to make up. Going into Saturday, Rochester stood in the North Division basement.
The physical battle started right out of the gate. Steve Pinizzotto of Hershey and Michael Duco of Rochester dropped the mitts just two seconds into the game. The spirited battle raised the bar for a physical game with a lot of penalties.
Midway through the opening period, with scoring chances tied the Bears would face an early opportunity to jump out in front. Back-to-back penalties to Rochester, nine minutes into the game sent Hershey on a 5-on-3 power play.
Moments later, off an Andrew Gordon shot, Patrick McNeil fired a loose rebound into the net. The tally gave Hershey a 1-0 lead to work with early on. Going into the game, Hershey’s power play was ranked fifth in the AHL, with Rochester’s penalty kill ranked the third worst in the league. It had to have been an indicator coming into Saturday for the Americans, that they could not take many of penalties.
With the opening period running bye, Keith Aucoin scored for Hershey to double the margin to two goals. Aucoin’s goal with just over five minutes remaining, was a long range shot that Markstrom would wish to have back.
The Bears lead 2-0 and out shot the Amerks, 14-9 going into the first intermission. Dany Sabourin of the Bears stone walled the American’s offense several times.
Going into the second period, the main concern for Rochester would be capitalizing on scoring opportunities in front of net. However, to start the middle stanza, the Americans grew into a bad habit of trying to force the puck in the offensive end. They began making careless decisions with the puck leading into turnovers.
About 5:26 into the middle period, on the power play Brian O’ Hanley fired a loose puck from the high slot into the net. The shot beat a screened Sabourin low, and the Hershey lead was cut in half. It was only the first shot for Rochester in the entire period, but they made it count large.
A back and fouth game continued following the Amerk’s tally, as both teams were able to set up an offensive forecheck down low and threaten to score.
O’ Hanley’s tally would be the lone mark in the middle period, as the Bears held on to the 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. The Bears out shot Rochester 18-10 in the second, but, the Americans began to be the better of the two teams offensively as the period ran on.
The Chocolate and White began to fall into a similar bad habit the Amerks fell into earlier. The Bears began making critical mistakes in their own defensive end trying to force the puck in risky areas. That lead to a lot of turn overs and chances on net, as the Rochester Americans were able to cut off a weak Hershey clear attempt, and put it on net.
The puck dropped on the third period, and the Bears had high hopes of putting away Rochester, and getting win No. 25. 4:05 into the final period, Gordon redirected Aucoin’s shot into the back of the net for his 19th goal of the season. The Bears now had a two-goal cushion to work with, with time running low for Rochester.
Just minutes later, Brian Willsie scored for Hershey on a power play goal. Crisp passing through the offensive zone by the Hershey special teams unit lead to the tally, and Hershey had their biggest lead of the night, at three goals. The Bears lead it 4-1, as the time of possession numbers for Hershey began to tower.
Just past the middle minutes, Ashton Rome slipped home a loose puck in the blue paint into an open net. Rome’s good fortune added on to Hershey’s lead, and made it 5-1. That would be the final tally, and the Hershey Bears would carry that lead to the final horn.
With Hershey’s win on Saturday, they pull into a tie for third in the East Division with the Charlotte Checkers.
The Bears return to the ice the very next day on Sunday, January 23rd. They take on the Adirondack Phantoms at Giant Center. The game kick-offs at 5 p.m.