Three things stuck out about this game, and they clearly fit into...
It’s Valentine’s in Hershey, Which Means… SPECIALTY JERSEYS (and Baby Pens)
After almost two years of Penguin Domination at the Giant Center, it was a bit surreal to go into today’s game having won the last rivalry meeting in the building. Or it could just be the jerseys. They’re pretty impressive (on a scale of Outdoor Classic to Christmas 2010, these are a solid category 2 on the “painful-to-the-eyes” factor. Specialty jerseys tend to be noteworthy in Hershey, and these continue that trend). Despite original reports that the Bears would only be wearing the jerseys during warm-ups, some kind of executive decision was made, and they never came off. Clearly, they were good luck, as the Bears successfully routed the Baby Pens to the tune of a 5-1 win.
Like the New Year’s Eve jerseys, the Valentine’s jerseys were designed with the Bears’ standard uniforms in mind. The logo and accents all match the home uniform pants and gloves, greatly minimizing the clash-factor. Both socks and jerseys feature tri-colored Hershey Kisses, and the obligatory accompanying text touting the chocolate candies.
To touch briefly on the game itself, the Bears seem to have found their confidence when it comes to hosting the Pens. It was a rough game at times, but comparatively tame when looking at last night’s tussle with Worcester. Braden Holtby held the Pens scoreless for the first fifty minutes of the game, and Jacob Micflikier and Ryan Potulny each came within a hair’s breadth of a hat trick (Potulny was first & last of the night, Micflikier was numbers 2 & 3).
The “Fourth Line” seems to be all anyone can talk about lately, and they’ve been working hard to earn that visibility. What is traditionally a place for rookies, brawlers, and non-contributors has proven instrumental in several recent wins. To quote Coach French tonight, “Maybe we need to stop calling them the fourth line.” Rookie Bear Garrett Mitchell, whom French called the player to show the most improvement over the last ten games, scored his third goal in the last six games. The tally came off of a beautiful pass that earned former-Capital D.J. King assist number two of the season.
Andrew Carroll, the third piece of the not-Fourth Line tonight, closed things out for the night with a bang, throwing down with Alex Grant 14 seconds before the end of the game. The altercation was disorganized enough that after some back and forth, the officials decided to simply run the clock out. The result was that the game “ended” with 0:03 remaining on the scoreboard, with play occurring in fits and starts from the 0:14 second mark on.
There was one other altercation in the game that was worthy of note, a bit of a soap opera involving one of our favorite imported blueliners, Tomas Kundratek. Kundratek caught Paul Thompson with an elbow in the second period, causing a cut above the Pen’s left eye and Thompson leaving the game. Later in the period, Brandon Defazio decided to follow up on the incident, and tried to have a go with Kundratek. The defenseman said no, but it turned out that DeFazio hadn’t actually been asking.
At the end of the whole ordeal, Hershey had a seven minute power-play due to the Instigator (2)/Fighting (5)/Game Misconduct calls assessed against DeFazio. Hershey failed to score on any of that extended power play, even when two minutes of it ended up being 5-on-3 due to an additional Baby Pens penalty. Not sure where to toss the credit/blame for that one, honestly. It was kind of a failure by committee.
Despite the embarrassing performance on the power play, the game ended well. Hershey walked away from the weekend having earned 5 of 6 points, and everyone was healthy enough to leave the ice under their own steam. The Bears seem to have sorted themselves out after their recent post-All Star Game slump, and are working around the absence of the man who’s still leading the AHL in assists and tied for the league lead in points overall – current-Capital Keith Aucoin (to be technical, Aucoin is in second place in the rankings after teammate Chris Bourque, but both currently have 70 points).
Following the game, the jerseys were auctioned off to benefit the Hershey Bears Charities. A full breakdown of the evening’s fundraising has now been posted and can be found here.
Due to technical difficulties, the full collection of jersey shots will be posted later tonight on Flickr (the tech issues have been resolved, so a sampling of images can now be found on this page. A more complete collection can still be found via the Flickr link).