- The Bears have now been shutout in two of the past four games, this despite the return of defenseman Connor Hobbs to the lineup tonight after missing 19 games due to a fractured wrist suffered on November 4. Forward Dustin Gazley sat out for the third game this season, along with Garrett Mitchell, Jeremy Langlois, and Hubert Labrie.
- Goaltender Viteck Vaneck faced a career-high 39 shots last night, but starter Pheonix Copley got the nod from head coach Troy Mann in the second game of the back-to-back.
The Checkers returned with an identical lineup to last night, including netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, who let in all of Hershey’s five goals in the first period and was pulled from the remainder of the game. He redeemed himself in tonight’s contest, earning his team a 6-0 shutout in front of their home crowd, which included Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
The first 11 minutes of the game were rather uneventful, with neither team able to solve the other’s netminder. With 8:23 to play in the opening frame, right wing Valentin Zykov took advantage of the room given by defensemen Colby Williams and Jonas Sigenthaler and beat Copley below the blocker to give Charlotte the 1-0 lead on his 18th goal of the season, with assists from forwards Andrew Miller and Lucas Wallmark. With 2:32 left in the period, Hershey center Zach Sill was called for slashing, giving the Checkers an opportunity to increase their lead late, and they did just that on a power play goal from center Aleksi Saarela to take the 2-0 lead, leaving the Chocolate and White down 2-0 at the end of the opening frame, and behind in shots, 15-9.
The second period began with sparks after Sill was taken down hard in front of the Checkers’ net, resulting in flaring tempers. With 16:15 to go in the middle frame, Hershey right wing Riley Barber was called for slashing, giving Charlotte their second power play of the night, but it would prove to be a short one, as Nicolas Roy was called for hooking just seconds later. The teams played 4-on-4 hockey for 1:36. Just over halfway through the second, Charlotte took a commanding 3-0 lead on yet another goal by Saarela (his 11th of the season), with assists from Patrick Brown and Andrew Poturalski. Just minutes later, a shot from Bears defenseman Lucas Johansen rung the iron, but did not go in. Anthony Peluso sat for two with 3:19 left in the second session after being called for interference, putting the Bears on a crucial penalty kill. A pile up in front of Copley resulted in the Checkers celebrating and the red light coming on, but the referee signaled no goal. After 40 minutes, the Bears were still down on the scoreboard and in shots, 21-18.
Within the first minute of the third, Hershey found themselves a man down for the fourth time in the game, a penalty the Bears were able to kill off successfully. The Bears’ first full power play of the night for came with 14:29 left in regulation, however the Bears failed to take advantage of their man-advantage. Charlotte left wing Sergey Tolchinsky put the Checkers up 4-0 after making a move around Siegenthaler to beat Copley. Tempers began to flare yet again after a hit from Hobbs on Zykov. After another penalty call on the Checkers, play went back to 4-on-4 hockey, which resulted in a 42-second power play for Hershey. Hershey went over 17 minutes without a shot in the third period, mustering only two shot in the last 20 minutes of the game. Hershey found themselves down 5-0 with only three minuets to play, and with just over a minute to play, Saarela found the net yet again for a hat trick, making it 6-0 in favor of Charlotte and securing the 6-0 shutout.
By Allison Shuey