All told, it wasn’t a bad week for the Hershey Bears, but when you are sitting in first place and hoping to hold that spot, every point matters. The Bears secured 4 of a possible 6 with a 3-1 win in Binghamton Friday, a 6-2 home win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday, and a wild 5-4 loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday.
Riley Barber scored his 20th goal of his rookie season just 8:27 into the game in Binghamton. Barber, the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for February got an assist from linemate Nathan Walker.
After the Senators scored on the Power Play to tie the game at 1-1 after the first period, the Bears added a goal in both remaining periods to secure the win.
In the second, Sean Collins scored an even-strength goal off assists from Dustin Gazley and Carter Camper. Then Chris Bourque added an empty-net goal with assists going to Collins and Zach Sill.
Dan Ellis got the win, stopping 22 of 23 shots that came his way.
Ellis was also between the pipes for the Bears Saturday night as they notched their 20th home win of the season.
After a scoreless first period, Walker got the Bears on the board 2:10 into the second when he sent a shot through the pads of Wilkes-Barre’s goalie. Camper notched his first of three points on the evening with an assist while Garrett Mitchell recorded the secondary assist.
Just four minutes later, the “Djoooooos” chant filled Giant Center as the defenseman scored on a cross-crease feed from Camper and Gazley on the Power Play.
Camper would add his own goal late in the second with assists to Aaron Ness and Madison Bowey on a four-on-four before the Penguins finally got on the board before the end of the second.
In the third, Gazley got a Power Play goal of his own after taking a pass from Collins. Ness also recorded an assist on Gazley’s goal.
Former Bear Steve Olesky then assisted on Wilkes-Barre’s second goal of the night, but Sill and Walker finished out the scoring to secure the win for the Bears.
Saturday marked the Giant Center debut of Bourque and Bourque. Chris and Ryan previously played together last season in Hartford, and while Ryan didn’t make his way onto the scoresheet, Chris did in the waning minutes of the game, assisting on Walker’s Power Play goal.
The wild rematch in Wilkes-Barre Sunday didn’t turn out in Hershey’s favor as the Bears fell 5-4 to the Penguins.
Aaron Ness scored a pair of goals for the Bears as the teams combined for seven goals in the first period, but it wasn’t enough as the Penguins added a short-handed goal with under a minute to go in the second period and then they held on the final 20 minutes to secure the win on home ice.
Scoring for the Bears in Wilkes-Barre were Tyler Lewington, Ness, and Barber. Ryan Bourque scored his first point as a Bear, assisting on Ness’s second period goal that tied the game.
The Penguins sent 33 shots at Justin Peters, who recorded 28 saves.
In addition to the nine goals scored, the teams were called for a combined 22 penalties including an opening game fight between Liam O’Brien and McGrath. McGrath would incur two misconducts in the game and O’Brien earned one of his own late in the game.
Rookie Jakub Vrana missed the entire weekend due to illness. He should return to practice this week.
On the weekend, the Hershey Power Play was 5 for 17 and the Penalty Kill was 10 for 13.
In one of the more absurd announcements this week, Hershey captain, Garrett Mitchell was suspended by the AHL for an illegal check to the head during Sunday’s game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. No penalty was called on that play, but Mitchell was called for high-sticking at 4:46 in the second. Meanwhile, Penguin Patrick McGrath apparently escaped unschathed after 29 penalty minutes in the game. Two of those were 10-minute misconduct penalties. Former Bear Steve Oleksy also was called for slashing as the game ended.
The Bears, without Mitchell, will travel to St. John’s to take on the IceCaps Saturday and Sunday. Their next home game is March 20. Due to PIAA playoffs, the 20th is just 1 of 3 home games in March for Hershey.
Weekly Prospect and Two-Way Contract Players Report
Dan Ellis – 2-0 – 34 saves on 37 shots
Justin Peters – 0-1 – 28 saves on 33 shots
*Paul Carey – had season-ending shoulder surgery
*Chandler Stephenson – upper body injury (Feb. 21)
*Jakub Vrana – missed weekend due to illness
Weekly Stars Report (opponent)
1. Collins (Bingo), Camper (WBS-Sat.)
2. Barber (Bingo), Walker (WBS-Sat.)
3. Gazley (WBS-Sat.), Ness (WBS-Sun.)
Bears in the Top 20
Bourque – 1st in points (64), T-3rd in goals (25), 2nd in assists (39), T-3rd in PP Assists (18), T-14th PP Goals (8), T-1st Insurance Goals (6), T-4th in OT goals (2), T-6th in shots (156), T-5th First Goals (5)
Walker – T-18 in +/- (+17)
Boyd – 6th in Rookie scoring (42 points)
Barber – T-12th in points (46), T-11th in goals (21), T-5th Insurance Goals (4), 2nd in Rookie scoring (46 points)
O’Brien – T-19th Penalty Minutes (101)
Djoos – T-13th Shootout % (.667)
Ellis – T-7th GAA (2.36), T-6th in wins (22), T-8th in shutouts (3), 11th in minutes (1935), 20th in saves (840)
Peters – T-6th SOW (2)
Both Burgdoerfer and Gazley are AHL-only contract players.
By Julie Beidler