In the midst of a 7-game home-stand with injuries and players being recalled to Washington (Carrick and Sill), it would be easy to make excuses as to why the Bears are struggling, yet Troy Mann and his players remain upbeat and focused on improving their games and focusing on what went right in a 5-0 blowout win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday.
It seemed as though the Bears were gifted with just about every hockey attribute imaginable as they took to the ice Saturday. Five different Bears scored goals starting with Aaron Ness, who scored a mere 34 seconds into the contest.
Not even a minute later, Chris Brown took a feed from Mike Moore to put the Bears up 2-1 less than 90 seconds into the contest. Moore, skating in from the left, faked a shot and then fed the pass through the goal crease to Brown.
Even Hershey’s Power Play got into the action Saturday, as Madison Bowey netted a pass from Carter Camper to close out the scoring in the first period. Bowey’s goal was all but identical to Brown’s, only Camper was slightly deeper below the goal line for the feed.
Paul Carey, who has been on fire of late opened the scoring in the second period on a Power Play. Carey was in front of Foster and netted a rebound off Camper’s shot attempt to give Hershey a 4-0 lead.
Hershey’s final goal came from Erik Burgdoerfer who was left all alone on the right faceoff circle just 78 seconds later.
Hershey goalie, Dan Ellis turned in a stellar performance in his first shutout of the season, stopping all 22 shots that came his way.
With all that scoring, fans expected more of the same, especially with lowly Binghamton at Giant Center Sunday. But it was the Senators who came out on fire in transition, scoring 4 goals on Mark Dekanich who was recalled from South Carolina as Justin Peters was unable to play.
Dekanich placed the blame squarely on himself, but it was the Hershey defense that allowed three odd-man rushes for goals and a Power Play that recorded just 2 shots on 2 attempts that doomed Hershey to a 5-3 loss with the final goal coming after Mann pulled Dekanich for the extra attacker.
While Hershey didn’t get off to a terrific start, the Bears were answering Binghamton’s goals early on when Brown scored from the right face-off circle after a cross-ice pass from Carey to tie the game at 1-1.
Carey then intercepted an errant Binghamton pass in front of the Senators’ goal and scored an unassisted goal to tie the game at 2-2 in the second period, but the game got away from the Bears as Binghamton scored two more goals, one in the latter half of the second period and one early in the third period to take a 4-2 lead.
Travis Boyd pulled the Bears within one with his fifth goal of the season, but Binghamton tacked on an empty-net goal to secure their third straight win.
That goal came on one of seven Hershey Power Plays. Carter Camper scored at 17:47 in the second period to tie the game at 1-1, but Syracuse would get two more pucks past Ellis to secure a 3-1 victory over the Bears.
For the three game stretch, the Bears went 3-13 on the Power Play.
Mann, who has referred to the Power Play as a work-in-progress most of the season said, “I think the PP was very effective (against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton).” But he also noted that, “You don’t win many games when you don’t win that special teams battle.”
With Bourque and Mitchell back in the lineup and an end to the NHL-style schedule the Bears have had for the past two weeks with little practice time, the Power Play is sure to improve from its current 22nd place.
The losses to Binghamton and Syracuse marked the second time this month and just the fifth time this season that the Bears have lost back-to-back games. Having come from behind in many games though, Hershey never backed off in either game.
“I think that’s one of the best things about our team – the locker room is full of winners guys that don’t give up and compete the whole game,” Carey said. “We’ve shown many times this year that we can come back from any deficit. So tonight was the same as that, we just couldn’t come through.”
The Bears will look to rebound Thursday against Lehigh Valley and Binghamton Saturday before heading to Bridgeport Sunday.
Weekly Prospect and Two-Way Contract Players Report
Dan Ellis – 1-1 – 36 saves on 41 shots
Mark Dekanich 0-1 – 18 saves on 22 shots
Garrett Mitchell – Out 6-8 weeks for thumb surgery (Nov. 23) – RETURNED Dec. 29
Jakub Vrana – Out for 3 months from Wrist surgery (Nov. 2)
Justin Peters – Lower-body – (Dec. 20) RETURNED Dec. 29
Weekly Stars Report (opponent)
1 – Ellis (WBS)
2 – Camper (WBS)
3 – Bowey (WBS), Carrey (Bingo)
Both Burgdoerfer and Gazley are AHL-only contract players.
By Julie Beidler