HARTFORD, CT-  As good and tight as the Atlantic Division is, Hershey could ill afford a loss on the road extending their losing streak to three.  Fortunately for the Bears, this result never came to pass thanks to some key but somewhat unexpected contributors.

Coming off a loss to Springfield in what coach Troy Mann called a “boring” hockey game, the Bears came out hungry for redemption in Hartford.  After the loss on Wednesday night, Mann was looking for a much better start from the Bears.  In particular from Mathias Bau who had a relatively rough game that night. Naturally, it would be Bau who opened the scoring on the Bears first shot of the game on Saturday night.  Hampus Gustafsson and defensive defenseman Hubert Labrie with the pleasantly surprising assists on the great shot by Bau for his sixth goal of the season.

The goal proved to be a huge momentum swinger for the Bears as they gained complete control of the game throwing shot after shot Chris Nell‘s way.  Though they failed to capitalize on any of their three power plays in the first, Riley Barber continued the Bears push at the 18:27 mark of the first period.

Continuing the theme of redemptions and great stories, Zach Sill joined the secondary scoring party with Hershey shorthanded.  A perfectly placed clear eluded a Wolfpack defender and bounced right to Sill.  He made no mistake.

Sill’s goal was his first since January 14th, 2017, a huge weight lifted off his shoulders.  The shorthanded tally was Hershey’s third shorthanded goal of the season.  The team had fourth shorties all of last season.

Mason Mitchell added to the fun and extended the Bears lead to 4-0 at 15:04 of the second period.

The goal is Mitchell’s first career professional goal.  He was signed by the Capitals to a two-year entry-level deal beginning this season in March out of the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

The final “feel good” redemption story of the night for Hershey belonged to goalie Vitek Vanecek.  After a rough start to the year in which he was roughed up in the Capitals pre-season and surrendered four goals on 12 shots in his first game for the Bears, Vanecek was on point.  He would not truly face his toughest tests of the night until the third period in which he was mostly under siege.  Hartford possessed the puck in the Bears zone for the majority of the third and peppered the Bears netminder with 16 shots in the frame. Time and again the Wolfpack could not beat Vanecek.  We saw a great example of how Vitek has started to progress from when he was an ECHL rookie in the frame.

When he first moved to North America to play in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays, Vanecek was having issues with rebound control. On this play Vanecek on Saturday, Vanecek is quickly aware of the puck after his initial stop and pounces on it as it briefly sits loosely in the paint. This has to be a very pleasing sign for the organization on his growth as a young goalie.

Adam Tambellini would spoil the Czech goalie’s shutout bid late in the third off a centering pass by Steven Fogarty.  With three Bears in the area, it was a tough play for Hershey to give up.  Hartford fans who had been waiting just over 57 minutes of game time were finally able to toss their teddy bears on the ice for Hartford’s annual teddy bear toss night.

Near the conclusion of his post-game presser on Wednesday’s game, Troy Mann was lamenting the fact the Bears weren’t able to get the contributions to get the team to three goals.  Looking ahead to Saturday night’s game:

“We’re going to have to go in and play a real solid road game… and hopefully get some contributions offensively to maybe get it to three… We’re just a team that needs to get to three goals.  A lot of nights we don’t get there so have to be real locked down defensively,” said Mann.

The Bears were able to notch off of the points mentioned above by Mann.  None of the Bears top line forwards even registered a point.  Goals coming from Mason Mitchell, Riley Barber and especially Zach Sill were very much a long time coming and much needed secondary scoring.  Even defender Hubert Labrie chipped in with two assists.

Defensively Hershey was once again very sound holding Hartford under ten shots in the first (seven) and second (five) periods.  While things could’ve been better in the third, Vanecek was on his game and shut Hartford down when called upon.

Hershey closes out the weekend on home ice on Sunday afternoon against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.  Look for coverage of the game on twitter @SinBinBears starting at 5 PM.

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