After a disappointing home opener last Saturday, as well as a loss last night, Hershey needed a big win. They got it tonight, coming out hungry and putting the pressure on the Adirondack Phantoms until the final buzzer.
Despite the Bears' recent call-up losses of Mathieu Perreault (who ended up having a productive night in Washington), Jay Beagle, and Dany Sabourin, they had no problem filling the voids left, absolutely dominating the very young and offense-challenged Phantoms. The Bears had control of the puck for the majority of the game, as shown by the Phantoms total of 18 shots on net. The Bears, on the other hand, put 37 shots toward Phantoms goaltender Johan Backlund.
The Bears power play returned to its former glory after going 0-5 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last night, with the Bears capitalizing on two of their eight (yes, eight) power play chances. Throughout this season, the Phantoms have had trouble staying out of the penalty box, and tonight was no exception. The Phantoms' disciplinary problems turned into an early lead for the Bears, with Brian Willsie scoring a power play goal on the Phantoms' first penalty.
Kyle Greentree followed up with another power play goal at the end of the first period, but it was really only Greentree's goal on paper. His shot deflected off of Phantom Oskars Bartulis' shoulder and went straight past Backlund for a goal.
Greentree, on the Phantoms squad when they were based in Philadelphia, says Bartulis is a friend, and joked that he "owes [Bartulis] a beer." Previously going through a goalless streak, Greentree said he later told Bartulis, "thanks a lot, I appreciate that, it got me out of my little funk that I was in. It's probably the easiest one I'm going to have this year."
Ashton Rome, a guy not normally known for scoring goals, netted two in the win. Rome was modest after the game, saying, "I've been told I have a pretty good shot. I look for a pass, if it's not there, just keep it and shoot and hope for the best... I think that's my first two-goal game since I was in Idaho on the East Coast [ECHL]. It's been a while."
Rome also spoke to the very physical nature of the game -- with the rivalry between the teams, it's typical for a Bears/Phantoms game to be rough, and three fights broke out (including an excellent bout between Sheldon Souray and Matt Clackson, in which Souray absolutely dominated, but ultimately as we found out later, broke his hand in the fight). Rome said, "We gotta step up when teams try to push us around and show them that they can't."
Some quick notes:
- Zach Miskovic had his face drilled into the half wall during the second period, and stayed crumpled on the ice for about a minute as blood poured from his face. Thankfully, it seems only stitches were needed, as he returned to the game shortly thereafter.
- Braden Holtby had a couple of worrying instances where he wandered out of his crease to play the puck, but with one awesome exception. As a Phantom player was streaking toward the puck in what could have been a total breakaway, Holtby stepped out to play the puck, and (unbelievably) passed it through his own legs to the boards. It totally confused his opponent and brought puck control back to the Bears.
- Speaking of Holtby, the Phantoms spoiled his shutout bid with just 4:23 left in the game.
- Trevor Bruess and Zac Rinaldo had a little re-match of their rookie game fight, but Bruess started off on uneven footing and I don't think any punches were actually landed before linesmen got between them.
- Steve Pinizzotto's goal was a thing of beauty. He wrapped around the net, and unleashed a quick snapshot from the top of the circles. Backlund didn't have a chance.
- Joel Rechlicz is still, to put it lightly, not looking so good. I got a closer look in the locker room and while the swelling in his face has gone down since last week, he still is wearing a bandage over the bridge of his nose and his eyes are still quite black. In short, he still looks pretty frightening.
- Dmitry Kugryshev had a decent game. This was the first time I was really able to see him in a Bears game, and he had a fantastic breakaway chance, passing in front of the net to Willsie, who had come up behind him. How he could have possibly seen Willsie coming just speaks to Kugryshev's instincts. Heck, even I didn't see Willsie coming.
- Assistant Coach Troy Mann seemed pleasantly surprised to have women covering the game (and not in that sort of way, more as in 'good, we haven't had enough of that diversity'). In the locker room, as I was with Hershey Bears Examiner Lauren (the only female press of the night), he turned to us and said, "Hi, ladies!"
UPDATE: Check out the video highlights below. And don't miss Souray's fight (starting at the 0:43 mark). It was awesome.