Bears Fall to Checkers, 4-1

Posted January 14, 2020

via the Checkers

CHARLOTTE, N.C — Odd-man rushes generally translate to dangerous opportunities. On Tuesday night, those odd-man rushes up the ice generally resulted in turnovers for Hershey. In the 4-1 loss to the Charlotte Checkers, the lack of execution across the board for the Bears made all the difference.

“A lot of different areas [where] we didn’t execute well enough,” Hershey head coach Spencer Carbery said. “Had some odd man rush opportunities and just wasn’t crisp. Couldn’t finish plays. Couldn’t generate enough quality looks when we did get those opportunities.”

Hershey came out of the gate rolling. The Bears had multiple odd man rushes in the opening half of the period but couldn’t get anything past Anton Forsberg.  The momentum changed when Brian Pinho was called for tripping to put the home team on the power play. Just eight seconds later, Pheonix Copley was called for high sticking.

Charlotte capitalized on the long five-on-three on a goal from Oliwer Kaski with under seven minutes to go in the opening frame. Kaski’s goal energized the near sellout crowd.

“Five-on-three for a full two minutes, those are tough,” Carbery said. “Early in the game especially, we would like to grab a kill there, grab some momentum.”

The Checkers ended the period with a dominant 15-6 advantage in shots.

Copley was able to atone for his penalty just 17 seconds into the middle frame when he made two saves on an odd man rush from Charlotte. Minutes later, the Bears had a lapse on defense and Kaski found himself all alone near the dot on right circle. Kaski beat Copley top shelf, glove side to put the Checkers up 2-0 2:16 in the middle frame. Hershey got another odd man rush halfway through the period, but were unable to get a shot off. The Checkers made it a point of emphasis all game to have their sticks in the lane, deflecting any pass attempt from the Bears.

The Bears started to turn things around halfway through the middle frame. Shane Gersich had a one-timer from the right circle snared by Forsberg, but the Bears started making the Checkers’ netminder work. That work payed off with one of the few bright spots when Eddie Wittchow’s point show got through a screened Forsberg. Pinho and Shane Gersich recorded assists on the goal.

“It was a really nice play by Pins,” Wittchow said. “I saw him walking up the wall so I slid to the middle, and I get great net front presence by Gersh. It just found its way into the net. I think Gersh really took away [Forsberg’s] eyes and it was obvious he couldn’t see the puck. Without that net front presence, a goal like that doesn’t go in.”

The goal cut the lead in half with 106 seconds left in the second period and the teams went back to the room almost dead even in shots. It looked like an equalizer was coming, especially when the Bears got their lone power play of the night with less than five minutes gone in the third.

But, Charlotte had other ideas. They masterfully killed off the penalty as the Bears couldn’t register a shot on the man advantage.

“It’s been a struggle just executing,” Carbery said. “We’re just off. There [was] a good opportunity to maybe get back into a game that we don’t necessarily deserve to be in. A good chance there and we just couldn’t get anything going.”

That is where things changed for good.

Down a goal, Hershey didn’t register a shot in almost four minutes in the middle part of the third period. Charlotte  restored their two goal lead with 10:40 left after the Bears couldn’t clear the puck.

Hershey pulled Copley for an extra attacker with 3:53 to play after an icing call. The Checkers promptly won the draw, went down the ice and sealed the game.

“I don’t think we played that bad of a game,” Wittchow said. “A couple things here and there we didn’t execute on and put pucks in the back of the net. A few mistakes where pucks ended up in the back of our net. I think we know what we need to change and be better for tomorrow night.”