(Photos by Caps Outsider) It was all about the fans Saturday night...
Hershey Bears v. Charlotte Checkers: Part Deux (3-2 SO Win)
Last night, the story was everything around the game: Big announcements, PSAs for tolerance, etc. Today, the story in Hershey is the game. In some games, the three-official system works well enough – nobody’s playing with the intent to seriously injury, the area behind the play kind of takes care of itself, and all is well. It gives both teams a little wiggle room, and fans the ability to complain about how if only the ref had seen that…
With the way last night went, especially in light of Tomas Kundratek‘s hit on Nicolas Blanchard (who was absent from tonight’s lineup), the extra referee was not an option. He was an absolute necessity, as the first half of tonight’s game proved: 16 penalties assessed in the first half of the game (30:28, to be precise). Roughing, more roughing, boarding, interference, holding, more boarding, roughing, and a slashing call for variety.
At one point, there were three players on the ice without helmets due to an ongoing altercation (one of them was Hershey’s own Captain Boyd Kane, leading by example). However, when the penalties were doled out, no majors for fighting made it to the sheet. It was most definitely a conga-line to the sin bin, though. Hershey dominated the list of infractions, landing a streak of five in a row at one point. Charlotte scored two separate power play goals during that period, ratcheting up the tension that much higher.
But then Coach French reminded everyone why he’s good at his job, and made judicious use of his timeout. He called it just after the second goal against, allowed the Bears catch their breath both literally and figuratively, and when they headed back out it was as if a switch had been flipped.
Ryan Potulny scored two minutes later to get the ball rolling, and then Cody Eakin pulled the Bears even with just over five minutes left in the period. It was the last goal scored until the shoot-out.
The tide may have turned at the halfway point of the game, but it’s worth noting that there was one more batch of penalties called right after Potulny’s goal. Charlotte forward Justin Shugg boarded Kevin Marshall just behind the Hershey net, and a scrum ensued.
Following the burst of activity in the second period, things went quiet. Eerily quiet. No penalties, no goals, and the two teams combined for a total of just 15 shots on goal. Overtime was similarly light on the events, with all parties coming across as physically exhausted (most notably the Bears’ primary PK unit of Potulny, Chris Bourque, Kane, and Kundratek). The Bears did have 1:44 of power play time in OT when Charlotte’s Joe Sova earned himself a slashing call, but they Bears were unable to make anything substantial out of it.
Dany Sabourin is approaching hero status for his work backstopping the team through their recent winning streak. Tonight’s shootout victory marks his seventh start in a row, and his sixth win. With Braden Holtby up in Washington, there’s been little choice but to run with Sabourin, and he’s responded well to the increased workload.
A Few Personnel Notes
Tonight marked the professional debut of forward David Civitarese. Due to the massive amount of time spent on the PK during the first half of the game, he didn’t see a lot of ice time (he centered the 4th line, with D.J. King & Joel Rechlicz). However, since tonight is “Team Autograph Night,” he’s getting to know the local fans in a hurry.
Speaking of D.J. King, he earned a temporary promotion to the 3rd line as a result of the odd personnel combinations the Checkers were throwing out. Due to his larger size, King replaced T.J. Syner for the third period, playing on both the 3rd & 4th lines.
Garrett Mitchell (also pictured at the top of the article) scored his second shootout winner against the Charlotte Checkers this season (the first was January 11, in Charlotte). Mitchell was unfailingly honest when asked about his game-winning shot after the game: “I don’t know how it went in…but it all counts, eh?”
This, people, is why we love the AHL.
Note: A gallery of images from this game will be going up on Flickr over the next 36 hours.