HARTFORD, CT- Seemingly everything has gone wrong for the Hershey Bears in their last ten games. As they hit the road for three ahead of the All-Star break, things got a little worse. News came that both Tyler Lewington (Lowerbody) and Aaron Ness (Flu) would miss Wednesday night’s game in Hartford. Missing their top three defenders and in the midst of a 1-7-2 stretch, the odds were stacked against Hershey. This night, however, the Bears had an answer for every punch from Hartford and gutted out a 5-4 victory.
Something that hasn’t been an issue for the Bears during the slump is the offense and they got things rolling early in this one. Christian Djoos and Garrett Mitchell teamed up to force Robin Kovacs to turn the puck over on the half wall in the Hartford zone. Mitchell picked up the puck and tried to pass the puck into the slot. The pass got blocked back to him and he fired it on goal and beat Mackenzie Skapski to give Hershey an all important 1-0 lead 5:21 into the game.
Discipline was again a major issue for Hershey as they took three consecutive penalties from the last minute of the first on into the second. Just 58 seconds into the second period, Mat Bodie scored to even the game up at one on the Hartford power play. The Wolfpack would get two more power play opportunities after the goal, but failed to convert.
Once the game was back to five on five, the Bears took control. After a decent amount of pressure, Paul Carey made a great look to find Darren Dietz walking in from the point. Dietz gave the Bears a 2-1 lead with his career-high fifth goal of the year. Bears PTO signee Nolan Zajac from ECHL Toledo registered his first career AHL point with the secondary assist.
The lead was a short-lived one however as Hartford stormed back 1:21 later. Vitek Vanecek made the initial save on a Robin Kovacs break but the rebound went right to Allan McPherson who made no mistake to level the game at two.
The game swung back the Bears way dramatically not long after the McPherson goal. Vanecek made a huge save with 6:07 to go in the second, while the Bears were on a power play. Christian Djoos’ shot got blocked allowing Hartford to break in shorthanded. Vanecek stood strong to deny Marek Hrivik‘s breakaway. Head coach Troy Mann said after last game they needed saves at key moments of the game and they weren’t getting them, this was one of those saves.
It would prove to be a very important save because 53 seconds Stan Galiev restored the Bears one goal led once again. Great work by Nathan Walker to find Galiev in the slot and it was 3-2 Hershey at the 14:46 mark of the second.
The Bears offense wasn’t done with this second period yet. On another powerplay, Chris Bourque got himself open on the far side circle. Skapski got a piece of the one timer but not enough to stop it extending the lead to 4-2.
Like a broken record, the Bears once again took a late period penalty. Matt Carey had excellent net front positioning allowing him to both screen Vanecek and tip the puck in past the Hershey netminder. Hershey emerged from a three goal second period clinging to a 4-3 lead.
The Bears would go to the box twice more. A Nicklas Jensen point shot beat a screened Vanecek to tie the game at four and give Hartford their third powerplay goal. Consecutive goals that Vanecek couldn’t see because of a Wolfpack player standing directly in front of him.
Hershey managed to get zone time and create a few more chances but couldn’t break through. In the dying moments of regulation, a great lead pass from Colby Williams sprung Paul Carey. Carey broke in with a ton of speed and beat Skapski with a slick backhander for the huge 5-4 lead with three minutes to go.
Despite a rather dangerous scramble in front of Vanecek with 20 seconds left, the Bears held on for the confidence boosting win. Vanecek picked up hist first win in a month with 30 saves on 34 shots. Christian Djoos (2 A) and Paul Carey (1G, 1 A) each recorded two point nights for the Bears. Mat Bodie (1 G, 2 A) with the three point night for Hartford.
Hershey will look to build off the gutsy effort as they travel to Providence on Friday.
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