Although the Hershey Bears’ home opener was spoiled on October 15, they have won all four of their road games away from Giant Center prior to Saturday. Two of the wins occurred in the great state of New York, one in Virginia, and the fourth coming from the arena which houses the Bears’ I-81 rivals from Wilkes-Barre.
Saturday the Bears squared off against the lead affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they looked for their first “W” of the young season at home. Bryan Lerg recorded a goal and an assist along with first star honors for the W-B in route to a 3-1 win over Hershey.
Right out of the starting gate it seemed the Bears were fighting fatigue from the bus ride home the night before from Albany. After a Zach Miskovic infraction, the Pens would hit pay dirt on the power-play only 3:33 into regulation. Brian Gibbons would tip a Jason Williams shot, beating Braden Holtby to give the Penguins the early advantage.
Gibbon’s goal would be the lone tally for either team throughout the opening period. The Hershey Bears lead in shots 17-14, as well as penalties, 3-2. At the 9:25 mark of the opening period, Sean Collins appeared to make an attempt to lift the stick of Eric Tangradi. In doing so, Collins then raised his elbow and sent a hit to the head of Tangradi. Play continued on but was whistled dead as Tangradi stayed down on the ice covering his head.
Collins was sent to the box briefly, but after the officials gathered to discuss the play, he was set free and not charged with a penalty. It was an open ice hit that neither official received any good view of, leading to the non-call. After the Pens were denied of what could of been a long power-play, chippy, after the whistle play began between the two rivals.
Similar to the opening period, the Bears began the second flat lacking any grade “A” scoring opportunities. At the 7:18 mark, Colin McDonald on an odd-man rush would drop a pass to defenseman Simon Despres. Despres fired it low to the ice passed Braden Holtby to make it a 2-0 game.
Just over three minutes later, the Bears’ soft defense allowed another odd-man rush which again lead to a Wilkes-Barre goal. Bryan Lerg snapped a cross-ice feed from Paul Thompson into the net, far side on Braden Holtby. It would be the Penguins’ 23 shot of the game on Holtby. After two disappointing periods in Hershey for the hometown fans, the Pens carried a 3-0 lead into the visiting locker room.
As the Penguins put a three spot on the board during the second period, the Bears did the same under the shot column, as Brad Thiessen only had to make three stops during the middle stanza. Keith Aucoin, Graham Mink and Patrick McNeil were the only three Bears who registered a shot. Aucoin after two periods had six of Hershey’s 20 overall shots.
The Bears’ best hockey of the night came with only three minutes remaining, where Boyd Kane tallied his second goal of the season on the man-advantage. It pulled Hershey within a reachable margin, but they weren’t able to pull off the stunning come from behind win.
Throughout the 60 minute contest, the Penguins were given nine power-plays. Five of the nine Hershey infractions came from getting beat by a player. Garrett Mitchell, who played in his first AHL game of the season, was sent to the box on two different occasions where he was beat and forced to take a high-sticking and a hooking minor. Keith Aucoin, who is an AHL veteran was even sent to the sin-bin for a hold, after a delayed defensive recovery.
The Penguins continued their undefeated road record stretching it to 3-0, as the Bears hope the third time is the charm Sunday at home, still looking for their first victory of the season at Giant Center.
Sunday’s game will begin at 5 p.m. against the Syracuse Crunch.