Three things stuck out about this game, and they clearly fit into...
Blood & Chocolate, or Something Like That…
Short(est) Version of Tonight’s Game (Hershey Bears v. Connecticut Whale): CT 4 – Hershey 1. Ouch.
Short(ish) Version of Tonight’s Game (Containing Good & Bad News):
The Good News – Management clearly has a crystal ball and knew exactly how much all 10, 889 people attending tonight’s game against the CT Whale would need chocolate as a coping mechanism after it was over. Even new roster member Kevin Marshall (D) probably wants some, but eating isn’t something he’s capable of at the moment (more on that later).
The Bad News – That wasn’t actually the reason they were giving out chocolate. Also, the Bears lost.
The Longer Version (Containing a Warning for Hockey-Related Injuries, Pseudo-Grudges, and Schizophrenia-or-Possible-RedBull-Addiction):
In Hershey, the second month of the Gregorian Calendar is known as “Chocolate-Covered February.” To honor that title, chocolate is distributed at the conclusion of all Bears home games. It’s a neat little regionalism, and lets the Bears tout their affiliation with the Hershey Corporation just a little more obviously. And let’s be honest, there are very few people who will complain about free chocolate.
Tonight, that chocolate was a much needed panacea in the wake of a second-half breakdown that left the Bears pulling Dany Sabourin with 2:13 remaining in the third period. It’s important to specify the “second-half” part of tonight’s mess, because Hershey played a solid game for the first 32 minutes. It was chippy and rough, with a ridiculous number of turnovers and failed/intercepted passes, but both teams were fighting hard for possession and scoring chances. New Bears Kevin Marshall & Mike Carman were both looking steady in the lineup, and seeing time on the PK in game number two with the club. Tomas Kundratek was a demon in his second game against the Whale, very much a man with something to prove to the team he left behind. He was also primarily responsible for the Bears’ only goal. Cody Eakin tipped Kundratek’s shot into the Whale’s net just a minute and a half after CT scored the opening goal late in the first.
Then Kris Newbury scored on CT’s second power-play of the night (Zach Miskovic interfered with somebody. It happens), and the Bears tried to buckle down. Somehow, buckling down meant that a minute and a half later the Whale added another goal to their lead, so the Bears buckled down again. After all, popular convention holds that a two goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. Half a game left, plenty of time to tie it up.
Seconds later, Marshall did the noble thing and blocked a shot on goal. With his face. He went down and stayed down, and by the time the linesman checked on him there was already a sizable area of red forming. He managed to soak a gatorade towel by the time he made it to the tunnel, and lost teeth in the endeavor as well. More information is likely to be available after tomorrow’s game, but the basic gist isn’t likely to change. Pain, blood, more blood, and dental surgery. As noted in the “Short(est)” version above – Ouch.
Whether it was the goal or the injury, the Bears lost their focus at that point and never managed to regain it. They went 0/5 on the power play – their second worst showing in that category this season – and suffered from both miscommunication and a basic failure to connect with each other that was the result of more than just Keith Aucoin‘s absence (in case anyone forgot, he’s on sabbatical with the Capitals).
In case anyone was hopeful that this is a one night fluke, this was the sixth loss in seven games for the Bears. Despite their relatively solid standing in the division (second, although due to a technicality rather than point superiority over the Admirals at the moment), this a streak that the Bears need to shake off, and quickly. I have no doubts that they will, but it’s teeth-grinding to watch and wait for that turnaround again.
Is there a ‘Ray of Sunshine? Maybe…
News from the Stingrays corner is only a little bit better. The normal source of warm fuzzies in the Caps family has dropped two games in a row to the Cincinnati Cyclones. There is a silver lining or two, however. Caps prospect goaltender Philipp Grubauer was named the ECHL’s Reebok Rookie of the Month, and the leading scorer on the ‘Rays, Pierre-Luc O’Brien, was named the ECHL Plus Performer of the Month (i.e. best +/- standing).
To wrap things off, a few pictures from tonight’s game. Nothing too snazzy, but the obligatory blood, brothers, and an example or two of the above-mentioned chippiness.