Evgeny Kuznetsov tossed a quick backhand over to the streaking Alexander Ovechkin....
Tonight’s Hershey Game in One Word: Chippy.
Chippy: Adj. Aggressively belligerent. Marked by much fighting. Touchy & Irritable. Synonyms: aggressive, argumentative, combative, confrontational, cranky, feisty, grouchy, scrappy (per Merriam-Webster).
Upon reflection, that sounds exactly like tonight’s game against the Worcester Sharks. Supporting evidence includes 50 minutes of growling, shoving, called (and not-called) penalties, and at least two fights. The end result was a 3-2 loss for the Bears in round 7 of the shootout. Dany Sabourin can in no way be blamed for this one – he stonewalled very effectively for the first six rounds.
As Coach French helpfully pointed out after the game, the Sharks lead the AHL in fighting majors. They’re also second only to the Hershey Bears in terms of overall penalty minutes (going into this game, Hershey had 1059 & Worcester had 974). Following tonight’s game, the Bears remain firmly in the league lead in that category, with Captain Boyd Kane doing his part by earning two major penalties (Boarding & Fighting) and a game misconduct (Boarding) that got him ejected from the game midway through the first period. Recent Capital Joel Rechlicz was no slouch, either, dropping the gloves twice. At the end of the night, the penalty totals came out to 38 PIM for Hershey and 29 PIM for Worcester.
Had the ref been in the mood for it, those numbers could easily have been doubled. Various parties fell on sticks, held onto sticks, cross-checked, slashed, rolled around on the ice bear-hugging – if you can think of it and it’s not a major penalty, it probably happened and wasn’t called at some point in this game.
I should make it clear that I’m not accusing the refs of partisan calls/non-calls in this case. My inclination in questions of officiating tends to be to wave the flag of “A balanced penalty list does not mean a well-called game,” and that officials make their decisions to call/not-call penalties based on any number of factors. Sometimes, the goal is simply to keep things moving and prevent a situation from deteriorating any further. Sometimes, a decision is made to turn a blind eye to avoid having to call every micro-infraction. Sometimes, an official is tired or frustrated (because, *gasp*, they’re human, too!) and the filter they’re viewing the game through is a bit more colorful than the rest of us.
That being said, the general blind eye tonight was impressive – all the more notable given how many penalties were called. Three out of the game’s four regulation goals were scored on the power play (two by the Sharks, one of them with 1:16 left in the third period to force the OT. Mike Carman is in the dog house tonight for that late-in-game tripping call). Expect Hershey to score right out of the gate on their first power play tomorrow evening – they were 1 for 6 tonight, and their average success rate is 1/3. They’re due another goal, and soon.
On a final, and more positive note (although one point instead of none is definitely a good thing), Cody Eakin earned a hearty stick-tap of approval for his work ethic tonight. Kid took a high stick to the face, of the blood-letting variety, and scored less than twenty minutes later. Unfortunately, the lead he gave the Bears was only 45 seconds long, but it was nice while it lasted.
Tomorrow, the Bears host the Baby Penguins (again). The most exciting element of the afternoon promises to be their Valentine’s Day jerseys. Check back tomorrow for pictures and auction results. I have a feeling that at least 50% of the jerseys will bring in more than Keith Aucoin’s ASG Jersey did on eBay.