Amidst recalls, reassignments, and injuries, the Hershey Bears are fighting to keep pace in the Atlantic Division. While the overall results of the weekend weren’t what they may have hoped, the team’s efforts display that the organization has a strong Next-Man Up mentality.
With Mike Moore out of the line-up for the entire three-game stretch due to illness and Chandler Stephenson and Jakub Vrana still out due to injury, Hershey got a little creative since Paul Carey, Aaron Ness, and Zach Sill were all recalled to Washington. First Joey Leach was summoned from South Carolina. Bobby Shea had been recalled from South Carolina a week ago. Then the Bears reached out to former affiliate, Reading, and signed Cam Reid to a PTO.
Reid made the two game trip to New York, but since he only played sparingly in one of the two games, the team made the decision to send him back to Reading to allow him to get ice time. Then came the news that Riley Barber, injured during the Syracuse game, would be unable to skate Sunday against Utica.
Insert Troy Mann’s “Outside the Box” mentality. Defenseman Bobby Shea would become a forward for Sunday’s game against Utica and skate on the fourth line since the team’s roster for the night was 10 forwards and 8 defensemen.
While it was neck-and-neck for three periods, the Bears finally found a way to put the game away late in the third period when Erik Burgdoerfer sent the puck towards center ice where Sean Collins and Dustin Gazely jumped on it for a 2-on-1 odd-man rush. With Gazley carrying the puck, Collins made his way to the opposite side of the ice, waited for Gazley’s pass, and scored a shorthanded game winner.
After the game, Collins was quick to praise Gazley’s efforts saying, “It was probably the easiest goal I’ve ever scored.”
The goal prompted Utica to pull Cannata to try to score in the final three minutes of the game, but instead Chris Bourque and Garrett Mitchell each tacked on empty-netters to seal Hershey’s 6-3 win over the Comets in Utica’s first regular-season visit to Giant Center.
Both Bourque and Collins also scored earlier in the contest with Bourque scoring the night’s first goal just 3:22 into the contest and Collins scoring midway through the second to tie the game at 2-2.
Christian Djoos also scored in the second with the Bears on the Power Play.
The Power Play went 1-for-5 on the night, marking the second time in the weekend that the PP put up a goal on five attempts.
Friday night in Rochester Connor Carrick scored a PP goal in the first that gave Hershey a 2-1 lead that would become a 3-1 lead at the end of the first with goals from Gazley and Nathan Walker, but the hosts would tack on four more goals through the final two periods to secure the 5-4 win. Hershey’s other goal came from Mitchell late in the second period.
In Friday’s game, Bourque got the Bears off to a good start with a goal 4 minutes into the contest, but Syracuse would score four times including a Power Play and an Empty Net goal to secure a 4-2 win. Hershey’s other goal came from Djoos, who had two goals in three games on the weekend.
Bourque continues to pace the league in points with 26 goals and 20 assists. He, along with Carrick, will represent Hershey in the AHL All-Star game set for January 31 and February 1 in Syracuse, NY.
This week, the Bears will travel to Lehigh Valley Friday night and return to Giant Center to host the Springfield Falcons Saturday and Sunday.
The Bears will have Paul Carey back in the lineup this weekend as he was returned from Washington. They may also have Vrana and Stephenson as well; although Mann was not 100% confident either would skate this weekend. There is also a potential that Mike Richards may be in Hershey on conditioning, but with Carey’s return that may not be likely.
Weekly Prospect and Two-Way Contract Players Report
Dan Ellis – 1-1 – 46 saves on 54 shots
Justin Peters – 0-1 – 23 saves on 26 shots
Jakub Vrana – Out for 3 months from Wrist surgery (Nov. 2)
Mike Moore – illness (Jan. 7)
Riley Barber – day-to-day (Jan. 9)
Chandler Stephenson – upper-body injury (Jan. 2)
Weekly Stars Report (opponent)
1 – Collins (Utica)
2 – Bourque (Utica)
3 – Bourque (Syracuse), Djoos (Utica)
Both Burgdoerfer and Gazley are AHL-only contract players.
By Julie Beidler