Sunday’s game featured the first of two meetings between the Hershey Bears and the Hartford Wolfpack in the young American Hockey League season. It would be only the fourth time this season the Hershey Bears are facing an outer division team.
Coming into Sunday’s game, the Bears stood at the five spot of the East Division two points behind the Binghamton Senators. Hershey is looking to snap back-to-back losses against Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton, and end the weekend on a positive note.
The Hartford Wolf Pack are coming into tonight’s game off a hard fought overtime win in Binghamton. Jeremy Williams scored for Hartford just 1:03 into overtime to clinch two points on the road for the Pack. The crowd of 3,231 fans were sent home disappointed, as they watched the Hartford netminder, Chad Johnson stop 28 of 30 Senator shots. The Wolfpack stand at sixth in the Atlantic Division one point behind the Providence Bruins.
A sold out crowd at Giant Center looked on, as first period play got under way. The Bears spent the opening minutes of the game testing out the opposing goaltender Cameron Talbot. Hershey set up the offensive fore check early and had the Wolfpack back on their heels early on. Clutch stops by Talbot kept the game scoreless early on. As the period continued into the middle minutes, the Bears had a tougher time bringing the puck into the offensive zone.
Both Hartford and Hershey found themselves with miscommunication on both ends of the ice. The terrible communication lead to turnovers and scoring opportunities for the opposition. With 4:25 left in the opening stanza, a scrum sent Hartford’s Devin Didiomete to the box and gave Hershey a late period scoring chance. Chad Kolarik was sent to the box for interference to set up a two-man advantage, but the Bears could not capitalize. Despite heavy offensive pressure for Hershey, and even a shorthanded breakaway for the Pack, the game still remained scoreless going into intermission.
With one period in the record books, the Bears lead in the shot department, 12-8, as Talbot turned all 12 shots aside for Hartford. Hershey goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made his third start for Hershey since being injured stopped all eight shots he faced.
As the puck dropped on the second period, Mathieu Perrault was off an running. He snuck by the defense potted his third goal of the season on a breakaway just 17 seconds into the period. The motivation was rolling on the Bears side as 73 seconds later Brain Fahey scored on a delayed penalty to give the Bears a 2-0 lead. The slap shot beat Talbot clean and Hartford was forced to burn their time out, as the Bears fired five shots on net in the first 2:30 of the second period.
However only a few minutes later, the Bears gave the Wolfpack the opportunity to climb back into the game. A tripping penalty and a high sticking penalty 16 seconds apart gave Hartford a 5-on-3 power play. 5:12 into the period, the Pack capitalized on a redirection in front of the net. Varlamov didn’t have much of a chance as Mats Zuccarello tipped a Wade Redden shot past the Hershey netminder to make it a one-goal game once more.
As play began to even out, the Bears tallied again when Perrault lit the lamp, again, on a bank shot of the defender and past Talbot gave Hershey a 3-1 lead 8:38 into the second period.
As the clock began to tick down on the second period, Brian Willsie scored for Hershey on a 4-on-3 power play goal. A slap shot from the point beat a screened Talbot with 55 seconds left in the stanza. 4-1 the score going into intermission as the Bears fired 16 more shots on Talbot for a two period total of 28. Varlamov faced six more shots on net for a total of 14. The Bears had done an excellent job in the period being smart with the puck in the offensive end. The fore check and crisp passing was at its best, leading to a handful of scoring chances and goals.
As third period was off and running at Giant Center, the Bears had a three goal cushion to work with. The Bears hadn’t given up a single shot on net up until the 8:10 mark of the final stanza as the ice was tilted in Hershey’s favor. Nineteen seconds later, however, the Pack made their first shot on goal in the period count as Jared Nightingale tapped home a cross-ice pass from Kolarik to cut the Hershey lead to two goals. Later in the period, Dale Weise scored for the Pack and cut the Bears lead to one.
As the clock began to wind down in the close game, Hershey head coach Mark French demanded short shifts on the ice. With under a minute left the Pack had their goalie pulled and the extra skater on. The Bears held Hartford in their own end of the ice as the clock ran out, and the Bears escaped with a slim 4-3 win.
With this win, Hershey reaches double digits in wins and are now tied with the Norfolk Admirals for fourth place in the East Division.
The Bears return for another home game on November 24th, as they take on the Worcester Sharks for their annual Thanksgiving Eve Home Game. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. at Giant Center.