Yes, Hershey Lost (8-7, Ouch!), But You Know Who Won? Matt Clackson

Posted October 20, 2012

Matt Clackson v. Nick Tarnasky (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)

Tonight, Hershey played the first home game of their 75th season.  As various news outlets will tell you, it ended in fire/brimstone/apocalyptic catastrophe/etc (or, more specifically, they lost 8-7 to the Rochester Americans (or Amerks) after having held a 3-goal lead early in the second period).  The whole affair was very dramatic, as Hershey Home-Openers tend to be (last year, they lost 6-5 to Norfolk in OT. It was tragic).

The final score being what it was, you might wonder why Matt Clackson (who thoughtfully stepped into DJ King‘s old number for this season – #15) gets credit for a victory.

It’s not for engaging in the first regular season fight at Giant Center, although he did manage an effective takedown of Nick Tarnasky in their first period bout.  That’s practically to be expected, given his 193 penalty minutes in just over half a season’s worth of games last year with the Chicago Wolves.

It’s also not due to any singular accomplishment on the scoresheet.  If we were using the scoring tally as an assessment, we’d have to point out that four different Bears notched their first goal of the season tonight: Jeff Taffe (& 3 Assists!), Tomas Kundratek, Ryan Stoa (& his second!), and Mattias Sjogren.  Defenseman Garrett Stafford had four assists.  Perhaps most impressive, right wing Garrett Mitchell earned a Gordie Howe hat trick – Goal, Assist, and then a Fight (and all before the end of the second period).  Unfortunately, Mitchell’s fight was deemed a secondary altercation (former Caps first round draft pick Joe Finley & veteran Hershey defenseman Patrick Wellar were already exchanging pleasantries halfway across the ice).  As a result, both he and his opponent were assessed Game Misconduct penalties and missed the rest of the game.

Jeff Taffe kicked off the evening’s goal scoring bonanza with his first of the season.

It’s not even for the “meritoriously wounded in the service of the team” award, which goes to Ryan Potulny this evening.  He caught the wrong end of a dog-pile in front of the Amerks’ in the second period, and vanished down the tunnel to have what is sure to be labeled a “lower body injury” examined by every medical professional on-site.

Ryan Potulny models the Home Opener Specialty Jersey, featuring a design honoring the fact that the Bears are entering their 75th Season.

Matt Clackson won something even shinier and more special – the illustrious post-game bidding battle.

Tonight being something that resembled a special occasion in Hershey, the organization took the opportunity to bring out their favorite charity items – specialty jerseys.  The Home Opener jerseys had a special logo to celebrate the start of the franchise’s 75th season, and featured white numbers on a white background that were designed to induce seizures in the off-ice officiating staff.

Here at Capitals Outsider, we’ve spoken before about how Hershey’s fanbase is always willing to chip in and help out the Hershey Bears Charities in exchange for a game-worn and autographed jersey.  On occasion, they out-do Caps fans in the finances department – Captain Boyd Kane brought in over $2500 for a somewhat questionable St. Patrick’s Day jersey last spring, for example.

Somewhere between his first-period fight and the end of the night, Clackson made a fan.  Actually, he made two – who proceeded to jump into a bidding war that resulted in his jersey being auctioned off for a whopping $3500.  Yes, you read that right.  Three thousand, five-hundred dollars.  That’s twice what the team-signed spare jersey went for ($1750).

That’s also more than double the $1600-which-is-$100-higher-than-Dmitry-Orlov‘s-$1500 that rookie Stanislav Galiev brought in (the pair did, however, have matching high-sticking penalties in the third period & matching single assists).  At the end of the night, the total proceeds from the auction were well in excess of $35,000.

On a more serious note, and to bounce back to the game itself for a moment, it does need to be asked: Does the loss at home imply doom and gloom in the months to come?  Hardly.  It means that Dany Sabourin is unlikely to spend tomorrow afternoon’s game in net (the team’s third game in three days), which should lead to goaltender Philipp Grubauer getting his first AHL start barring a miraculous recovery by Braden Holtby from his still-unspecified injury.  It means a lot more special teams work in practice next week, especially for the penalty killers (the Amerks scored on four of six power plays).

It also means that Marcus Foligno and a few of his teammates had the kind of good nights that come with having been expected to play a tier above your current assignment (and they will likely continue to do so as long as the lockout continues).  That’s something that all of the teams in the league are struggling to adapt to, and some have gelled more quickly than others.  Hershey doesn’t deserve a pass for their performance tonight, but they do deserve the benefit of both patience and context.  Given that Hershey already has one win on the books (last night, 3-2 over Binghamton), it seems unlikely that any of us need to start stocking that bomb shelter in the back yard just yet…