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Bears Week 14 Recap: The Loneliest Number
In five of Hershey’s last eight games, the offense has scored one goal in each game. The Bears won a combined three standings points in those games, all against Atlantic Division opponents.
This past week, the Bears netted two standings points in overtime losses, but lost all three games by identical 2-1 scores. This despite outshooting both the Springfield Thunderbirds on Wednesday and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday.
Goaltending from Pheonix Copley — 51 saves in two starts — and Vitek Vanecek — 22 saves in one start — is hardly to blame for the team’s struggles. Neither is the penalty kill, which combined to delete 10 of 11 chances for opponents this weekend. The only power play goal allowed came in overtime.
Alexandre Grenier’s shorthanded tally looked like enough for the Thunderbirds to get away from Giant Center with two points, but a late thrid period goal pushed it to overtime. On a rush play, John Albert pulled around a sliding block to find Dustin Gazley breaking toward the net. His fourth goal of the year secured one point for Hershey.
Overtime brought controversy. Bobby Farnham followed his initial shot on Copley, only to run into him and knock him backward. The near official did not raise his arm, and play continued. Farnham scored the winning goal, and Bears fans rained boos on the ice to display their disapproval.
With most of the area’s attention firmly on the Philadelphia Eagles, who were busy squeaking out a 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL Playoffs, the Phantoms renewed pleasentries with the Bears.
Nathan Walker missed a penalty shot in the first period, but Hershey tallied first in the second with Riley Barber‘s twelfth goal of the season on the power play. T.J. Brennan got the equalizer for the Phantoms before things got ugly.
Bears defender Colby Williams went to cut off a Lehigh Valley breakout along the penalty box boards. He hit Danick Martel high, sending him to the ice and the referee’s arm into the air. Within seconds, Nicolas Aube-Kubel jumped Williams and wrestled him to the ice with his gloves mostly on. Multiple replays shown on AHL Live showed Williams not leave his feet until after contact, but did make contact above the shoulders.
Referees gave Williams a match penalty, and assessed a 10-minute misconduct to Aubbe-Kubel. Days after the game, the league suspended Williams three games for the hit. The hit broke Martel’s jaw according his Facebook, and no timetable for his return is available. Williams did not play in the rematch on Sunday, which will count toward his total.
Midway through the third, Matt Read tipped a Reece Wilcox slapshot by Vanecek for the game-winner. The best chance with the empty net came when Mathias Bau opted to pass for Zach Sill with feet of the net on a 2-on-1. Sill whiffed on the shot.
The rematch was little better for Hershey, who managed only a point in the 2-1 OT loss.
Travis Boyd notched his 100th AHL assist in a secondary fashion with Chris Bourque’s goal to open the scoring. It was Bourque’s first goal since December 9, also against Lehigh Valley.
It took a perfect storm for Lehigh Valley to beat Copley in the second period. With Connor Hobbs in from the blue line looking for a rebound, the puck bounced for the Phantoms with one Bear back on defense. Aube-Kubel tipped a soft pass from Mike Vecchione over Copley’s shoulders to tie the game.
24 seconds into the extra frame, Aaron Ness put his free hand on the back of Matt Read’s jersey. Read fell forward and lost the puck, making it an easy holding call for the officials. After Sill broke his stick on the faceoff, Brennan ended the game on a snap shot.
Springfield welcomes Hershey on Wednesday before the Bears and Phantoms play outside at Hersheypark Stadium.
6th Atlantic Division, 17-17-3-3 (W-L-OTL-SOL), .500 points percentage, 40 points