With the traditional AHL All-Star Classic looming, teams across the American Hockey League looked to go into the All-Star Break satisfied with their record, as they re-energize for the remainder of the season.
The Hershey Bears played the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday afternoon, hours before the AHL Skills Competition. Going into Saturday, Hershey would wish the All-Star Break actually came later for their team. Before Saturday, the Chocolate and White carried a five game winning streak, boosting them to second in the East Division.
The Charlotte Checkers are in the mix of their first season playing in the American Hockey League. However, the Checkers remain in the thick of the division, only two points behind Hershey entering Saturday. Charlotte hasn’t missed a beat since entering the AHL, as they came into the matinee as possible playoff contenders.
Game 46 of the season for Hershey began, to complete another three games in three nights stretch. A back and fourth game began right out of the gate, but, neither team created any major scoring chance in the first half of the period. Shots were only 1-1, six minutes in.
Towards the middle minutes, the Hershey line of Andrew Gordon, Keith Aucoin, and Francois Bouchard started to increase the puck possession numbers in the offensive end. However, despite the puck possession, the passing in the offensive end for Hershey were off target. In the opening period it appeared the key passing lanes were open, but neither team could execute.
The first period would come to a close with both teams scoreless, and lacking any chances to tally. Both teams were tied with only five shots a piece. Through 20 minutes it would be a game hard for the fans to watch, as the game lacked any consistent flow, and contained many offsides and icing infractions.
The Checkers began the middle stanza trying to turn the flow and momentum. In the opening minute, Charlotte’s Chris Terry walked in front of Braden Holtby and released two quick shots on net. But the Bears’ goalie was up to the task and made a couple of highlight reel saves to keep the game scoreless.
Minutes later, the tide quickly began to turn. Hershey began sustaining a pressure in the offensive end where they moved the puck well, and threw several chances on net. Thankfully for Charlotte, Justin Pogge bailed out his defense as the game approached its midway point.
The Checkers had five man advantages in the middle period giving them the upper hand in opportunities
The Bears’ penalty kill was ranked only 13th in the league coming into Saturday. However, they killed each of the Checkers’ attempts on the man advantage to keep the game scoreless.
Hershey went right back on the penalty kill Aucoin was handed a four minute double-minor for high sticking in the opening minute of the penalty kill. Shortly after, Sheldon Souray was sent to the box to make it a 5-on-3 power play for Charlotte, for a full two minutes. But once again, the Bears were able to kill both penalties to keep the game scoreless.
With about ten minutes left in the third the Bears were given a power play of their own. Souray capitalized on that power play with a bullet from the point to give Hershey the 1-0 victory.