ROCHESTER, NY- If you’re a coach you probably weren’t too thrilled with your team being part of a high scoring 5-4 game like this one. As a fan, you probably enjoyed following this game, because it was up and down back and forth and had a little bit of everything. Ultimately the Hershey Bears couldn’t find the final answer and fell in the season’s opening night.
First things first here’s how Head Coach Troy Mann constructed his lineup for Game one: *Starters are Italicized
17 Chris Bourque – 15 Travis Boyd – 13 Jakub Vrana
28 Paul Carey – 21 Chandler Stephenson- 22 Stan Galiev
12 Nathan Walker – 24 Brad Malone- 19 Riley Barber
14 Ryan Bourque – 11 Zach Sill- 18 Christian Thomas
27 Aaron Ness- 2 Tyler Lewington
5 Christian Djoos- 7 Darren Dietz
32 Hubert (Hew-bair) Labrie- 4 Madison Bowey
35 Joe Cannata
Scratches: Team Captain 36 Garrett Mitchell, 10 Dustin Gazley, 20 Liam O’Brien and 25 Colby Williams
Hershey got off to a bit of a sloppy start and took three penalties in the game’s first twelve minutes. With Aaron Ness in the box for interference Cole Schneider deflected the puck past Cannata to put Rochester up 1-0 just 45 seconds into the game. There wasn’t much that the Hershey netminder could do as he was forced to go side to side. To compound things, Hershey’s passing looked to still be in pre-season mode and turnovers in their own zone were aplenty.
Eventually, the Bears offense woke up and started to generate some chances. A couple of shots from Chris Bourque, in particular, looked promising but Linus Ullmark kept the Bears down by one. Cannata only saw three shots in his first period as a Bear as Rochester was outshot 9-3.
The second period is when the game really started opening up. After his team was under siege to start the period, Cole Schneider took the wind out of the Hershey sails as he broke in and fired a weak backhand that eluded Cannata’s pad for the 2-0 lead.
The Bears found the answer just 2:46 later. Hubert Labrie who scored just two goals in 65 games last year so if you picked him to score Hershey’s first goal of the season go buy a lottery ticket! The whole play was created by Madison Bowey. Bowey made a nifty play dekeing past a defender and found Labrie all alone in front of Ullmark with a wide open net to cut the Americans’ lead to 2-1.
It was a seesaw affair from there as the two teams traded goals. Just as Hershey’s Brad Malone scored to make the score 3-2, Justin Bailey inexplicably cross checked Nathan Walker which sent him dangerously careening headfirst into the boards. Fortunately, he was not injured and the ref was right there to make the call. Bailey was assessed a five minute major for boarding on the play but was not thrown out. Jakub Vrana tied the game up at three on the ensuing powerplay with a one-timer on a feed by Chris Bourque.
Things got even crazier when Nathan Walker was once again on the receiving end of a big hit, this time from Justin Falk. Tyler Lewington took exception and immediately dropped the gloves with Falk. Teammates will certainly appreciate Lewington stepping up but he was given the extra minor on the play. Cal O’Reilly took advantage of that powerplay and gave Rochester the 4-3 lead with 26 seconds to go in the second.
The back and forth affair continued into the third period as the teams once again traded goals. Justin Kea threw a beautiful backward no-look pass between his legs to Eric Cornel who buried it past Cannata for the 5-3 lead.
The Bears pushed and pushed until Jakub Vrana took a pass and flew into the offensive zone. He fired a wrist shot past Ullmark to make bring the game to within one 5-4. Troy Mann elected to pull Cannata for the extra attacker with 2:30 to play and the Bears pepper Ullmark. Despite being outshot 29-12 the Americks held on for the 5-4 victory.
The offense for Hershey was dominant at times and controlled the play. Not all of the goals were on Cannata but five goals on 12 shots will make for a forgettable debut for the veteran.
Offensive standouts for the Bears were Madison Bowey, Jakub Vrana and surprisingly Hubert Labrie. Bowey moved the puck well and was heavily involved in the offensive zone. Vrana scored twice and looked very much like the prospect he needs to be to make it to the next level. His speed up the ice on his second goal was impressive. Labrie is not normally an offensive minded player but he was all over the offensive zone and was rewarded with a goal.
Hershey will look to bounce back tomorrow night in Binghamton at 7:05 PM.