The Hershey Bears defeated the Toronto Marlies 4-2 Sunday night at Giant Center, with the Bears offense finally coming to life. Alex Berry, Cameron Schilling and Jon DiSalvatore recorded even strength goals for Hershey and Zach Hamill netted a power play goal. Braden Holtby had another phenomenal game in net for Hershey, recording 40 saves on 42 shots.
“Coming into today we probably knew that we needed a very strong goaltending performance,” said Bears coach, Mark French of Holtby’s game in net. “Braden’s been very consistent this year; he’s very quiet in the net this year. His game has matured for me a lot over the past 24 months and he gave us a real good effort tonight.”
Alex Berry potted the Bears first goal on the night, ripping a shot past Toronto goalie, Mark Owuya. The play was set up by Zach Hamill and lineup addition, Patrick McNeill.
“They seem to have the ability to play with a little pace,” said French of the third line comprised of Hamill, Mathieu Beaudoin and T.J. Syner. “They seem to have some chemistry together, but Zach’s becoming a big part of both of our special teams. He’s coming into his own as we become more familiar with what he can do.”
Hershey padded their lead later in the first period, on Zach Hamill’s sixth goal of the season. The Bears converted on their first power play chance of the night, a department in which they entered the game at a 16% clip. Jeff Taffe and newcomer, Evan Barlow recorded assists on Hamill’s power play marker.
“I thought he made a real good play on the power play,” said Bears coach, Mark French of Barlow’s first game in Hershey. “He absorbed some pressure on the half wall, made a real nice play down low to Jeff Taffe.”
Barlow earned power play time along with a spot at left wing on the top line comprised of Taffe, DiSalvatore and Barlow.
“I’m sure he was playing with some confidence after the streak he had been on in the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) level, so why not true and capture some of that confidence,” said French.
The Bears struck for two even strength goals in the second period, with only 45 seconds separating the even strength markers. Cameron Schilling fired a shot thorough traffic in front and past Owuya, followed by Jon DiSalvatore’s third goal of the season following a great feed from defenseman, Dmitry Orlov. With the goal, DiSalvatore reached 500 points in his AHL career.
“I’m excited about it,” said DiSalvatore postgame. “It was a milestone that I’m glad I finally reached, a little bit of a monkey off the back if you will. The play in general was just a great play, I’m glad that [Orlov] gave me such a wide open net to shoot at. I’m definitely happy that I got it and that it’s overwith.”
Toronto finally stuffed one home at the 11:10 mark in the second stanza, with Matt Frattin knocking home a rebound past Holtby.
The Marlies cut the Bears’ lead to 4-2 12:05 into the third period on Mark Fraser’s second goal of the season. Fraser ripped a shot past Holtby, with the assist credited to former Hershey Bear, Keith Aucoin.
“To break a streak, that first one’s often the hardest,” said French. You’ve got a big rock rolling downhill of momentum and it’s hard to get it stopped. I think it’s important that we celebrate this win even though it’s not ideal. It’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully we can gain a little bit of confidence from it, with the understanding that we’ve got to be a lot better.”
1. Attendance: 8,659
2. Hershey Injury Scratches: Garrett Stafford, Ryan Stoa and Jonathon Kalinski
3. Bears Healthy Scratches: Matt Clackson, Matt Pope and Julien Brouillette
4. Keith Aucoin recorded two assists in his return to Giant Center
5. Steve Oleksy and Alex Berry both earned fighting majors
1. Zach Hamill (one goal, one assist, plus one, one shot on goal)
2. Braden Holtby (40 saves on 42 shots on goal)
3. Jeff Taffe (two assists, plus one, two shots on goal)