Over the past week without a single game or practice, Troy Mann encouraged his team to go home, where ever home was for them.  Enjoy the new year with your families, take a vacation, a mental break.  After a tough start to the year, the break seemed to pay off as they trounced Charlotte 5-1.

Close calls, near misses, turnovers and good goaltending characterized the first period. Charlotte threw as much as they could toward Pheonix Copley but he stood tall.

Luck was on Hershey’s side as well as the Checkers missed a couple of wide open nets. Hershey only was credited with three shots but saw many of their shot attempts blocked before reaching Alex Nedeljkovic or just missing wide. John Albert came the closest to scoring:

It took well into the second period to finally get some offense in this one. After the Bears failed to register a shot on goal on an abbreviated power play the Checkers struck first. Jake Chelios with the point rocket that went straight in and beat Copley cleanly at the  13:27 mark. It was the 11th consecutive goal the Checkers have scored against Hershey since the Bears took at 5-0 lead in Charlotte back in the first period on December 20th.

It would not take long for Hershey to find a response. Just over a minute later, one of the better playing forwards John Albert, was out on the ice and in Charlotte’s zone. A centering pass from Dustin Gazley deflected to Albert at Nedeljkovic’s right. Albert spun and just twirled the puck toward the goal and it squeaked over the goal line tying the game at 14:44 of the second.

Thanks to a much-needed spark from the first goal and sitting with a late power play, Hershey looked to go into the second intermission with a lead. Desperately looking for redemption from the poor play of the first two opportunities, the power play finally clicked. Tyler Graovac came flying into the Checkers zone off a feed from Connor Hobbs. He whistled a pass cross-ice to Riley Barber who buried the leading goal with 30 seconds left in the second making it 2-1.

Further fireworks came just after the final whistle with Nathan Walker, Zach Sill, Tyler Lewington, Roland McKeown, and Andrew Miller all pushing and shoving. The fray ended with a four-on-four and a very loud and fired up Giant Center.

Hershey continued the momentum into the third period. Despite repeatedly having shots blocked or missing altogether, played confidently. Forcing turnovers and creating more and more chances until they hit paydirt once again. Nathan Walker fired the puck on goal that was stopped by Nedeljkovic but he spit out a juicy rebound. Colby Williams pinching in from the point pounced with a very nifty move dodging the Nedeljkovic poke check and depositing into the open goal making it 3-1 Hershey.

Zach Sill increased the lead further still positioning himself in front of the goal. Jonas Siegenthaler’s shot from the point hit Nedeljkovic and bounced right to Sill who buried the rebound.

In a desperation move down by three, Charlotte elected to go for the extra attacker with 7:30 left to go in the third period. The gamble led to several shots by Charlotte initially but ultimately failed as Wayne Simpson found the open cage making it 5–1 at 13:59.

Charlotte refused to quit and actually made Copley work harder despite trailing by four goals.  He made a big stop on a late Valentin Zykov breakaway and kept the Checkers at bay to preserve the 5-1 win.

After losing eight of nine games, Copley has now won two consecutive games.  It’s the first time he’s done that since November 15-17.  He was outstanding tonight stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced. Alex Nedeljkovic picks up the loss saving 18 of 23 shots.

The Bears have been starving for secondary scoring and got a much-needed taste of it in this one.  John Albert, Zach Sill, and Colby Williams each scored their third goals of the season.  Coach Mann has stressed the necessity of getting to at least three goals and tonight they got three from a couple of so far unlikely sources.  If they have a chance of getting back in the playoff hunt, this trend needs to continue.

The same two teams go right back at it again tomorrow afternoon at Giant Center.  Hershey will be wearing specialty Star Wars jerseys so be sure to look for those.  Puck drop is scheduled for 5 PM.

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