Rockford, Il- The Midwest road swing for Hershey came to an end with a first. The franchise’s first-ever trip to Rockford to take on the IceHogs. They’ll want to erase it from their memories after a 5-0 drubbing.
Riding the momentum from the team’s first win of the season on Saturday, the Bears certainly had a jump in their step early. Aside from an early Rockford power play, the IceHogs had noticeably less sustained pressure than any of the Bears previous opponents. Unfortunately for Hershey, all this got them was a 10-9 shot advantage and a 2-0 hole after one. Chris Bourque will want to burn the tape of the first as he committed two egregious turnovers that directly led to both Rockford goals. The first of which he tried to pass up the middle and gave it right to Rockford. The resulting shot would be a tough one for Parker Milner to stop as he faced a ton of traffic in front. Graham Knott was credited with the deflection which is his first AHL goal.
Check out the traffic in front of Milner on the Hogs first goal. pic.twitter.com/7o44s6NBff
— Sin Bin Bears (@SinBinBears) October 22, 2017
On the second goal, Bourque tried to feed Kris Bindulis off a faceoff win. The pass couldn’t get through and Rockford raced up the ice. Matheson Iacopelli followed up on the initial shot by Tomas Jurco to make it 2-0 Rockford.
Penalty trouble was the story of the second period for Hershey. Though the unit has been solid so far this season, they bit off more they could chew in the second. With two Bears and an IceHogs in the box, Hershey dangerously attempted a two-on-one rush. John Albert and Tyler Lewington rushed up the ice but couldn’t connect. Rockford, enjoying the four-on-three power play, collected the puck and rushed up the ice on a three-on-one break against Hubert Labrie. The initial shot by Tomas Jurco hit the post and the rebound was just out of Milner’s reach as Vinnie Hinostroza deposited the loose puck for the 3-0 lead.
Rockford added goals from Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg in the third to silence any chances of a Bears comeback. Killing six penalties seemed to have taken its toll on Hershey as they managed just three shots compared to 11 for Rockford in the third period.
Hershey’s number one goalie Pheonix Copley has been on the trip and looks to be close to returning possibly next week via Hershey’s Zach Fisch. Not to say that goaltending has been at fault for early season struggles BUT both healthy goaltenders are ECHL level and when Copley and Vanecek return, it will be a strength for the Bears.
The Bears are currently relying on a young and inexperienced defensive corps. With four rookies on the blue line, it is clear there are growing pains to come. Kris Blindulis made his Hershey debut on Sunday and while he showed no fear on pinching down in the offensive zone it is clear he needs work defensively. Lucas Johansen whom Blindulis replaced tonight sits at -8 and needs to be better.
The Bears lost key offensive players over the offseason last season and are still looking for an answer on how to replace them. The Bears are 26th overall in the league in scoring with just 12 goals.
Hershey returns to familiar opponents in week three next weekend as they take on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on the road on Friday and then return to Giant Center to take on Providence and Hartford on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Be sure to follow @SinBinBears for the latest on all things Hershey Bears.
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