LAVAL, QC – Laval welcomed another first-time opponent to Place Bell in Quebec on Friday night. Hershey, fresh off its victory over Rochester on Sunday came in looking to build some momentum in the franchise’s first-ever trip to Laval. Travis Boyd made sure to provide Hershey introduction by exploding for four goals, lifting his team to a 6-3 victory.
Despite the Rocket being the third most penalized team in the Eastern Conference, it was Hershey who took the first couple penalties of the game. Snapping a streak of surrendering a goal in seven straight, Hershey’s penalty kill had some confidence and killed off the first Rocket opportunity. On the second, with Zach Sill in the box, defender Jonas Siegenthaler dove to chip the puck out of the zone. Liam O’Brien raced to the puck and found himself on a breakaway. He backhanded his tenth goal of the season home through the five-hole on Charlie Lindgren.
The special teams units for the Chocolate and White continued to be successful late in the first when Hershey earned its first power play. Defenseman Connor Hobbs fed Boyd above the circle to Lindgren’s left. Boyd walked in and fired a shot beating Lindgren beneath his glove for his 11th goal of the season and his 22nd power play point. Hershey went into the locker room with just a 6-5 shot advantage but ahead 2-0 on the big board.
The scoring continued after a relatively quiet first half of the second period. Laval broke through at 8:21 off a faceoff win. Noah Juulsen cranked up a slap shot from the right point and journeymen Adam Cracknell was on the spot for a perfect deflection beating Vitek Vanecek cutting the score to 2-1.
Any momentum the rocket may have gained was squashed 1:21 later by the Bears. Newly acquired Joe Whitney picked off a clearing attempt by Laval. He found Travis Boyd all alone in front of Lindgren. Boyd took his time to control the puck then spun and wristed home his second of the game past a twirling Lindgren.
Laval took some time but got a much-needed response late in the second. Tyler Lewington got caught pinching right as Zach Sill went for a change. Daniel Audette recognized the advantage that had been created and fed a streaking Antoine Waked. Siegenthaler who was the far defensemen had no chance to chance to catch the speedy Waked, and he rushed in and scored on the breakaway. The score stood at 3-2 Hershey after two periods.
For whatever reason right around the 8:20 mark seemed to be the ignition point for the offense in this game. Hershey first survived a couple of high danger chances by Laval thanks to Vanecek. Then at 8:26 Travis Boyd went to work. Jeremy Gregoire draped himself all over Boyd as he forced his way into the slot from the point. His hat trick goal muscled its way into the goal for his second career American Hockey League hat-trick.
Boyd would add a fourth goal off a rush and nice backhanded feed by Whitney. The initial curl and drag shot was stopped, but Boyd crashed the net to deposit his rebound extending the Hershey lead to 5-2.
Hershey was down shorthanded late when Liam O’Brien potted his second goal of the game into the empty net icing the game at 6-2.
Laval’s Luc-Olivier Blain was johnny-on-the-spot with a loose rebound on Vanecek to cut the game to a 6-3 lead. It proved to be too little too late as the couldn’t overcome a three-goal deficit in the final minute.
Riley Barber and Markus Eisenschmid spiced things up in the dying seconds by dropping the gloves with Barber coming out on top.
Hershey’s special teams were a highlight of the game as needed. The Bears now go two consecutive games without allowing a power-play goal against killing off four power plays. The penalty kill also scored two shorthanded goals giving them eight on the year. The power play was 1-for-4.
Vitek Vanecek wins consecutive games for the first time since December 20-23. He stops 17 of 20 shots in the win. He made timely saves when called upon by despite the low shot total. Lindgren made 21 saves on 26 shots in the loss.
Since being acquired by Washington, Joe Whitney has been on fire. The former Hartford captain has registered five points in two games with Hershey including two assists tonight.
The Bears will take on Belleville for their inaugural visit to the Senators. They’ll do so winners of two consecutive games for the first time since January 6-7. Laval remains at home to host the Marlies who just lost to the Senators.