Silver Lining, Dark Finish. Hershey Bears Give Fans an Unwelcome Kiss.

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Posted December 18, 2011

Well. That was awkward. (Hershey - Sean Collins & Ryan Potulny, Norfolk - Cory Conacher)(All Photos Credit: M. Richter)

In the space of fourteen minutes last night, the Hershey Bears game against the Norfolk Admirals went from heart-stopping to heartbreaking.  The Bears went from confident to unsettled, and when they headed to the locker room they left a 3-6 loss on the scoreboard.  The gracious way of describing the third period of last night’s game is “Ugly,” and I’m sure the players used more colorful language behind closed doors.

Because there is always a silver lining, even if the Bears burned through theirs early in the evening, tonight’s article is going to take a paragraph to explain the mess that was left when the final buzzer sounded.  After that, it will never be spoken of again. Then we can turn to more pleasant matters, touching on all of the good things that happened in Hershey tonight.

What Happened (Abbreviated Version):

First Period: Great hockey, all around.  The Bears dominated the ice, keeping the puck in the Admirals zone the majority of the period.  At the end of the period, the Bears led the Admirals 3-1.  The refs made a conscious decision to put their whistles away, and the time sped by.

Second Period: The tempo picked up, and play was more evenly distributed between both ends.  Penalties were called with a precise balance, deserved or otherwise.  When the horn sounded, the Bears maintained their 3-1 lead.

Third Period: To quote W. B. Yeats, “Things [fell] apart, the center cannot hold.”  Norfolk scored five goals in 14:19.  The Bears played ping-pong, passes failed to connect, and a very controlled form of panic settled over the boys in chocolate and white.  The only penalties on the scoresheet belonged to Hershey.

The Good Things:

With the way the game ended, it’s easy to get stuck on the negatives.  Loss.  Blow-out third period. Two separate bouts of 2-goals-in-2-minutes.  The list goes on.  So for some perspective, I give you a summary in pictures:

Joel Rechlicz, #19 for Hershey, celebrates with teammates and takes on Eric Neilson.

2:47 into the first period, Joel Rechlicz scored his second goal in four years with the AHL. When the puck dropped at the following faceoff, his gloves followed and he snagged the second piece of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Unfortunately, he never managed the assist to complete the set.

Cody Eakin, #14 of the Hershey Bears and #50 with the Washington Capitals.

Cody Eakin dressed for the Bears for the first time since his call-up to Washington on November 1, 2011. While he will be missed by the fans in Washington, we’re thrilled to see him back in Hershey. Eakin saw time on the third line in his return to Giant Center.  Maxime Lacroix and D. J. King were healthy scratches in the wake of his return to the line-up.

Braden Holtby, #1 for Hershey, stretches during warmups.

Until the wheels came off, Braden Holtby was having a fantastic game. His save percentage at the close of the second period was .938, allowing 1 goal on 16 shots. The third period was a mess, but the kind that cannot in good conscience be laid entirely at the feet of the goalie.

Jacob Micflikier receives congratulations for potting the second goal of the game.

The Hershey boys did a fantastic job of sharing the joy in the first period, spreading the points for the three goals tallied between nine players.  Goal #1 – Joel Rechlicz, A’s Brouillette & Flemming.  Goal #2 – Jacob Micflikier, A’s Ford & Potulny.  Goal #3 – Chris Bourque, A’s Kane & Aucoin (fantastic breakaway, scored with only 0:03 left in the period).

Bears leadership, Keith Aucoin and Boyd Kane, in the wake of Aucoin's stellar hip check late in the third.

Keith Aucoin deserves an honorable mention for engineering the above photo.  It’s the aftermath of what appeared to be an absolutely phenomenal hip-check, which occurred during the delayed penalty that Graham Mink earned when his gloved fist may-or-may-not have impacted a Norfolk player in the face while said player was bent over the Hershey bench.

The Point:

The Bears engineered a [email protected]#$ by committee when it came to the Sunday game against Norfolk.  No way around that, and nobody’s looking for excuses.  Instead, attention is on Wednesday’s game against the Syracuse Crunch.  It will provide a much-needed chance to head into the holiday break with a win on the books and on the minds of fans and players alike.

It’s worth noting that the South Carolina Stingrays spent the weekend in a slump as well, dropping 3 games at home in the span of 3 days.  It’s the first time all season they’ve recorded such a run in front of their own crowd.  The silver lining for the ‘Rays is that all three games came down to a difference of a single goal.  Sunday’s match against the Greenville Road Warriors was the highest scoring of the bunch, closing out the weekend on a 3-4 loss.  Philipp Grubauer swallowed the loss, facing 10 more shots than his counterpart for Greenville.

As the month of November demonstrated in vivid technicolor, sometimes forward is the only place worth looking.