For the second time in his career, Alex Ovechkin scored back-to-back hat...
Bears Week 17 Recap: Whitney Winner
The Bears celebrate beating the Rochester Americans. (Cory Lyons)
The Hershey Bears are used to success. 11 Calder Cups in 79 seasons, a 13.9 percent success rate, will do that for a franchise. Last place, where the Bears are now, is an uncomfortable spot for a team accustomed to the upper tiers of AHL hockey.
With some help from Brian MacLellan in Washington, the Bears made two trades with the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday. On AHL deals, the Bears sent Hubert Labrie to Hartford for three-time AHL all-star Joe Whitney. On NHL deals, the Capitals sent John Albert to New York for Adam Chapie. All players reported to the AHL.
Hershey played without any of them on Friday night at Lehigh Valley, and the Phantoms won their eighth game this season over the Bears, 5-1.
By the time Dustin Gazley scored in the third, Vitek Vanecek had been chased after the fourth goal from the Phantoms. The matchup was well out of reach when Liam O’Brien and Jonas Siegenthaler got tied up with Mike Vecchione.
Hershey outshot Lehigh Valley 17-4 in the third period, and 31-25 overall. Alex Lyon stopped 30 of the pucks he saw.
All four men played the next night, conveniently featuring the Bears and the Wolf Pack. The visitors from Connecticut extended their hot run with a 5-2 win.
Pheonix Copley did not have a good night in net. In the six minutes, 55 seconds he played, he saw 5 shots and allowed three goals. Head coach Tory Mann plugged in Vanecek the rest of the way.
Barring the opening minutes, Hershey kept up with Hartford. Gazley scored again, and O’Brien reached nine goals on the season. With Vanecek in net, Hershey tied Hartford, 2-2.
Joe Whitney endeared himself to Hershey fans the next night, notching two assists and the overtime game-winner against the Rochester Americans in a 3-2 win to snap another losing streak.
The 30-year-old got his first point with Hershey with his new power-play set-up, with Riley Barber finishing the play in the first period. Seth Griffith and Eric Cornel scored for Hartford to bring about a dramatic finish.
With Vanecek off for the extra skater, time ticked away from Hershey. After killing a penalty that brought the clock down to 10 seconds left, Wayne Simpson started the last rush up ice with enough space to fire on Linus Ullmark. He missed the first attempt, but his second sent all 8,669 in attendance into a stunned frenzy. This game needed overtime.
Hershey’s two shots in the extra frame came from the same men who factored in most of the night. Barber sent one on Ullmark, who could not hold on to the floater. Whitney beat out his defender, and swept the puck into the yawning cage.
While Chris Bourque and the American Olympic team open group play against Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Olympic Athletes from Russia, the Bears head north of the border to visit Laval, Belleville, and Toronto for three games in three nights starting Friday.
8th in Atlantic Division, 19-25-3-4 (W-L-OTL-SOL), .441 points percentage, 45 points