HERSHEY, PA- The Hershey Bears made sure to give Binghamton’s freshly called up goalie Scott Greenham a rude welcome for his first American Hockey League action of the season. Unfortunately for Greenham, it was not a fun return to the AHL thanks to a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of an inspired Hershey Offense.
The first period was quite an eventful one. The Bears had the best chance to strike first after Phil Varone tripped Chris Bourque. The powerplay unit had some decent looks but couldn’t score. It would drop the Hershey powerplay to just two for 21 (9.5%) on the man-advantage to that point.
Shortly after coming out of the box, Varone found himself all alone behind the Bears defense and roofed the puck on Joe Cannata for the 1-0 Binghamton lead at 7:12.
Things escalated rather quickly after a delayed penalty call at the 7:34 mark. Mike Blunden confronted Nathan Walker after the whistle, prompting Hershey Captain Garrett Mitchell to step in. Mitchell and Blunden went at it bringing a crowd of players to the half-wall in the Hershey offensive zone. Tyler Lewington and Guillaume Lepine were also involved. Lewington earned a game misconduct as he tussled with the linesmen in an attempt to get to Blunden at the bottom of the pile. Lepine was also given a game misconduct for his involvement. The fracas resulted in what would become a full two-minute five-on-three powerplay for Binghamton. Hershey was able to prevent the Senators from having any sort of sustained pressure and survived without surrendering a goal. The kill proved to be a big moment in the game.
After the game, head coach Troy Mann spoke on the importance of that penalty kill. “The biggest turning point of the game was getting through those penalties in the first period because they had already made it 1-0 and it could’ve easily been two or 3-0 if our penalty kill wasn’t on there,” Mann said.
Last game, I emphasized the importance of faceoffs and how much they hurt the Bears in that loss. Tonight was a different story for Hershey as they were able to use the faceoff to their advantage. An offensive zone faceoff win by Travis Boyd set up Jakub Vrana who then found Madison Bowey open at the point. Bowey sniped it past Greenham to tie the game at 1-1 about three minutes into the second period.
The puck must’ve looked like a piece of steak because the Bears were playing as though they were starving. Binghamton was forced into turnover after turnover throughout the second period because of the tremendous pressure they were facing whenever they possessed the puck. Chandler Stephenson created another turnover as he hit Zach Stortini in front of the Senators net. This allowed Christian Thomas to pick up the loose puck and bury it to give the Bears a 2-1 lead at 8:41. From there the shelling was on as Riley Barber and Jakub Vrana added tallies to balloon the lead to 4-1.
With Joey Leach in the box late in the period, Binghamton’s Casey Bailey caught three Bears on one side of the ice. All they could do was watch as he fired the puck past Joe Cannata with just 20 seconds to go. It was a minor blemish on a period that saw Hershey outshoot the Senators 11-3 and score four times.
Sometimes late period goals prove to be momentum changers. It was not to be for the Senators tonight. Hershey’s offense picked up where it had left off. The continuous pressure really began taking a physical toll on Binghamton in the third. Travis Boyd created another turnover and found Bourque for his first goal of the season at the 8:52 mark to make it a 5-2 Hershey lead.
The Bears scored another goal off of a faceoff from Christian Thomas to extend the lead to 6-2 at 11:14. A little over a minute later Jakub Vrana scored his second of the night off a nice no-look passing play from Chandler Stephenson to make it 7-2 Hershey. It was clear the Senators were completely worn down and had nothing left in the tank. Play descended into a game of keep away from that point with the final score of 7-2.
It was a cover-to-cover team effort by Hershey. They won faceoffs, controlled puck battles, created offense from turnovers and didn’t allow the Senators much room to generate anything. It appears that the coaching staff may have lit a fire under the Bears as the head coach touched on postgame.
“We talked today about having more players on board in terms of playing better and we’ve had some games here where I think we could easily be 4-1 going into tonight’s game. Our offense just hasn’t kicked into gear quite yet in a number of games and when you’ve got six/seven guys going it’s such a team game you need more guys playing at a better pace and I thought we got that tonight,” Mann said.
The team responded to the pregame message in a big way with ten players recording at least a point and five recording multipoint games. Vrana, and Thomas each scored twice while Travis Boyd recorded three assists.
Hershey will look to carry the momentum into their next game this afternoon at 5:00 pm against Lehigh Valley.