CHARLOTTE, NC – Following what was self-proclaimed as the worst first period of Troy Mann‘s Hershey tenure, the team was embarrassed on Saturday.  Mann said it would never happen again and boy did the Bears ever respond on Wednesday. The Chocolate and White blew off a little steam erupting for five goals in the first.  The league’s hottest offense in Charlotte made things very interesting late but ultimately fell on home ice.  Breakdowns and frustrations were aplenty but Hershey sorely needed a win and survived to get it by a 5-4 final in Charlotte.

Mired in a three-game losing streak, the game looked to be following a similar script for Hershey. The Bears once again took an early penalty less than two minutes in. Playing an inspired game, the Bears flipped the usual script. Charlotte couldn’t maintain pressure and gave up a two-on-two rush while on their power play. With defender Colby Williams skating through in the slot, Tyler Graovac threw the puck toward the goal. Williams deflected the puck in past Alex Nedeljovic to give the Bears a 1-0 lead while shorthanded.

Vitek Vanecek was on his game early and he had to be because the Bears put themselves on a second penalty kill. After surviving that opportunity Hershey added to the lead. A puck in the corner came free right to Anthony Peluso just above the goal line. Peluso didn’t hesitate to fire it on goal stunning Nedeljovic as he realized it had beaten him.

Wayne Simpson would capitalize on a turnover as a bad pass bounced right to him in the slot. From one knee he snapped Hershey’s third goal of the period.

The incredible rally continued with the Bears on the power play. Chris Bourque flung a pass across the zone to Travis Boyd. Boyd settled the puck and roofed for the fourth goal. The goal was the last straw for Nedeljovic who was yanked in favor of Jeremy Smith.

Riley Barber welcomed him to the game rather rudely by scoring a layup from John Albert.

Trailing 5-0, the Checkers needed something, anything to get back into the game, the got it from a Bears turnover. A pass by Zach Sill eluded Lucas Johansen giving the Checkers control. Nicolas Roy centered a pass to Julian Gauthier who found the five-hole to get Charlotte on the board.

Both teams looked more like themselves in the second period. As has been an issue all season, Hershey fell into penalty trouble. An unnecessary penalty by Tyler Lewington put Hershey on a lengthy five-on-three. The Checkers managed to Beat Vanecek on that chance but were stoned by the crossbar. For some reason, it took a five-minute review to show that the puck did indeed hit the crossbar and stayed out.

The delay was enough to give Charlotte the rest they needed to score for real. With traffic in front. Aleksi Saarrela wound up and blasted a shot past the screened Hershey netminder to make it 5-2.

The Checkers rally continued by Warren Foegel. Back to even strength, Hershey allowed Foegele to walk in from the point and get a shot off. Vanecek made the initial stop but Foegele quickly pounced on his own rebound and scored to make it three straight goals for Charlotte.

Charlotte kicked up the pressure in the third. Vanecek and the Bears stood strong for over ten minutes. Then they were caught on an extended shift and couldn’t get the puck out basically forcing them to take a penalty to relieve the pressure. Unfortunately for the Bears, the Checkers hot power play made them pay. Sergey Tolchinsky with the goal that closed the game to within one goal at 5-4.

Smelling blood, Charlotte kicked up the pressure and intensity. Pulling Smith, they had complete control of the puck in the Bears zone. Colby Williams was on the spot to make a couple of huge blocks and time ran out of the furious Charlotte come back as they fell 5-4.

Notes
Hershey entered the game with 34 fewer goals than Charlotte on the year. A big reason why is a lack of secondary scoring.  They got it tonight from five different goal scorers including Peluso with his second of the season, Williams with his second and finally Boyd with his long-awaited fourth goal of the year.  Additionally, Aaron Ness, Tyler Graovac and, John Albert each picked up two-assist games. This marks Ness’ second consecutive two assist game.

On Colby Williams goal, the Bears have now scored six shorthanded goals. After scoring four such goals all of 2016-2017, Hershey is now third in all of the AHL behind Syracuse and Charlotte for the most shorthanded goals.

Vanecek has now won four of his five starts so far since he rejoined the team from injury.  He was outstanding tonight stopping 35 on 39 shots.  Many of the shots he faced were of the high quality and it’s hard to fault him for the majority of the goals against.  He’s been the hot hand of late and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in on Thursday.

Lastly, Hershey will get a big rookie piece back on Thursday night.  Rookie defenseman Connor Hobbs has been cleared to return from a broken wrist he sustained back on November fourth.  The Bears will greatly benefit from the physical defender with a scoring prowess.

These same two teams will be right back at it against on Thursday here in Charlotte at 7 PM.  Both teams will be looking to start new streaks as Hershey just snapped a three-game losing streak while the Checkers have now had their three-game winning streak come to an end.