It was a miserable end to 2015 for the Hershey Bears with a 3-1 loss to Lehigh Valley on New Year’s Eve, but somewhere in the middle of the second period Saturday, the unexplainable happened and the Bears rattled off 10 straight goals over two games in a thrilling 6-5 come-from-behind, Overtime 6-5 win over Binghamton Saturday and a 5-0 shutout at Bridgeport Sunday.
Thursday evening, The Phantoms jumped on top of the Bears on the PowerPlay in the first period and added a second tally in the second period before the Bears got on the board late in the third when Hershey coach Troy Mann pulled Justin Peters for an extra attacker. Christian Djoos fired a shot from the center point that found its way through bodies and into the back of the net at 17:25.
With Peters still on the bench for the extra attacker, Lehigh Valley tallied an empty net goal to secure the 3-1 win.
As bleak as things looked Thursday, Saturday appeared to be even worse as the Bears faced a 5-1 deficit. Nathan Walker, whose parents were in town from Australia, had initially tied the game in the first period by tallying a rebound off a Chris Bourque shot. But it was his second goal of that game, a glove-side wrist shot, that opened the proverbial floodgates as the Bears netted four straight in regulation, the last coming with 72 seconds left in the game and Dan Ellis on the bench for the extra attacker.
When the dust settled, Travis Boyd, Sean Collins, and Garrett Mitchell all tallied a goal to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Ellis stopped a 3-on-1 attempt by the Senators that Madison Bowey sent to center ice. Bourque picked up the puck and skated to the net to finish off a comeback for the ages. Bourque continued to make up for time missed due to injury as the Bears traveled to Bridgeport Sunday and continued their offensive outburst. Bourque tallied a pair of goals while Mitchell, Collins, and Dustin Gazley also scored as Hershey overwhelmed the Sound Tigers 5-0.
Mitchell recorded the first goal of the game on an odd-man rush with Walker with 87 seconds to go in the first period. Bourque and Collins scored within a three-minute span of time in the middle of the second period with Bourque’s coming on the Power Play, which has struggled of late. Hershey was 1 for 9 on the extended weekend.
Bourque tallied his 13th goal of the season in the third while Gazley got an assist from Caleb Herbert on his late-game goal.
The shutout was the second on the season for Ellis who won back-to-back games after coming on in relief for Peters against Binghamton.
Hershey’s Penalty Kill nearly pitched a shutout this weekend as well, allowing one goal on eight Power Play opportunities over three games.
Call-ups and Re-assignments
With the recalls of Aaron Ness and Zach Sill to Washington, Hershey recalled Bobby Shea from South Carolina. Shea was forced to sit out the Lehigh Valley game due to earning a one-game suspension in the preseason. He had not been on an AHL roster to serve the suspension until New Year’s Eve. Shea, along with an injured Stephenson (day-to-day) was scratched against Bridgeport as was Jakub Vrana, who is inching closer to a sooner-than-anticipated return from wrist surgery.
Tuesday morning, Scott Stuccio tweeted that the Bears have signed 6’3”, 203-pound center, Cam Reid to a PTO. The Canadian has spent the majority of the past two seasons playing for the Reading Royals of the ECHL, but has seen games for AHL teams such as Bridgeport, Utica, Lehigh Valley, and Adirondack over that span of time.
Hershey is on the road in Rochester Friday, at Syracuse Saturday, and will host Utica Sunday. The Comets will make their first-ever visit to Giant Center in the regular season.
Weekly Prospect and Two-Way Contract Players Report
Dan Ellis – 2-0 (Overtime Win and Shutout) – 52 saves on 53 shots
Justin Peters – 0-1 – 40 saves on 46 shots
Jakub Vrana – Out for 3 months from Wrist surgery (Nov. 2)
Chandler Stephenson – Upper body injury (Jan. 2)
Weekly Stats Report (opponent)
1 – Walker (Bingo), Ellis (Bridgeport)
2 – Mitchell (Bingo), Bourque (Bridgeport)
3 – Peters (LV), Mitchell (Bridgeport)
Both Burgdoerfer and Gazley are AHL-only contract
By Julie Beidler