Bears Week 18 Recap: Vrana is Back

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Posted February 9, 2016

(via the Bears)

January 9th (vs. Syracuse) was the last time the Hershey Bears failed to take at least one point from a game. In the 12 games since, the Chocolate and White are 9-0-2-1 (W-L-OTL-SOL). This week’s games extended the club winning streak to five and saw Jakub Vrana return to top-form, earning him CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors in the process.

Despite a scoreless and penalty free first period, the Bears saw momentum swing their way in against the Binghamton Senators after 10 minutes passed. Dan Ellis stopped the first five shots of the game and his offense sent the next eight at Matt O’Connor. The blitz was on within three minutes of the second period puck drop. Riley Barber, Vrana, Sean Collins, Carter Camper, Scott Gomez, and Chandler Stephenson (shorthanded) scored in succession. The six goals marked tied the highest offensive total for the Bears this season and equaled the AHL record for most goals in a single period.

Senators backup Chris Driedger replaced O’Connor to start the third and prevented the Bears from adding to their total. Binghamton’s Nick Paul and Kyle Flanagan scored in the comeback effort, but Ellis remained sharp and led the Bears to a 6-2 victory.

With Paul Carey on recall to Washington — and scoring his first NHL goal in the shootout win over New Jersey on the same day — for now, Travis Boyd stole the show against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in front of a packed GIANT Center. Boyd opened the night with a power play strike for his eleventh goal of the season. Chris Bourque scored his AHL-leading 21st of the season to end the first period 2-0.

Continuing their second period dominance, Boyd scored again on the power play before Vrana added his second goal of the weekend. Aaron Palushaj tallied the lone goal for the Phantoms at 16:09 of the second, 41 seconds before Boyd scored again for his frist professional hat trick and the second consecutive Bears home game with a hat trick.

Jason LaBarbera lasted the rest of the second before Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon yanked him in favor of Martin Ouellette. Ouellette made 16 saves on 16 shots in the third period; LaBarbera finished the game with 15 saves on 20 Bears shots through two periods. Justin Peters stopped 26 of 27 for his 11th win of the season.

Binghamton vistited Chocolate Town the next night and treated the home town crowd to another Bears win. Off the opening faceoff, Liam O’Brien and Guillame Lepine dropped glovess to fight. It was the first ten penalty minutes on a night where Hershey took 18 and Binghamton took 34.

Vrana scored once again to open the game, but Chris Carlisle tied it up on the power play five minutes later. Carlisle’s goal started a streak of five consecutive power play goals, only the next four came for Hershey.

Christian Djoos reclaimed the Bears in the late stages of the first while Barber cut the Senators’ penalty kill down to size with two goals of his own in the middle frame. Gomez scored his third career AHL goal on a carry over penalty from the second and Nathan Walker rounded out the scoresheet at even strength with his 10th goal this year.

Matt O’Connor made 24 saves in the losing effort while Ellis only needed 17 saves to keep the club in front.

Vrana’s three goals combined with four assists earned him Player of the Week distinction; he will be honored with an etched crystal award by the league prior to a future home game.

NEXT WEEK

Bridgeport and Hershey will finally play their postponed game this Wednesday night in GIANT Center. Afterward, it’s a quick road trip to New England to face Providence in Rhode Island and Springfield in Massachusettes.

CURRENT STANDING

2nd in Atlantic Division, 49 games played, 27-13-3-6 (W-L-OTL-SOL), 63 points