On a night in which their NHL affiliate Capitals downed the New Jersey Devils 5-3, the Hershey Bears came nowhere near matching that, losing 7-3 to the Charlotte Checkers in a game that saw both teams get their fair share of power plays (13 combined).
The opening frame, like the game as whole, would start of badly for Hershey, as Charlotte’s Janne Kuokannen opened the scoring just 1:01 into the period with his eighth goal of the season to put the Checkers ahead 1-0; Greg Mckegg was credited with the assist on the goal. The goal came shortly before the Checkers were awarded with their first power play of the game, one which they would fail to convert. It wasn’t long before the Chocolate and White were awarded a man-advantage of their own at the 5:26 mark. Unlike their opponents, the Bears cashed in on the man-advantage on Chris Bourque’s 15th goal of the season at the 6:05 mark; defenseman Connor Hobbs was credited with the assist on the goal. Just minutes later, the Checkers were gifted their second power play of the game and period after Bourque was called for tripping at the 9:10 mark. This time, the Checkers would make the Bears pay, as Julien Gauthier potted his 15th goal of the 2017-18 season to give the Checkers their second lead of the game. In what would be a trend throughout the game, the Bears also received their second man-advantage of the period and game and again made Charlotte pay on another goal by Bourque; Hobbs and Jeremy Langlois were credited with assists on the goal. Charlotte would take another penalty late in the period but would manage to kill it off early in the second period. The two teams entered the first intermission tied 2-2 and Charlotte ahead in shots 7-5.
The middle frame got off to a similar start to the first, as Charlotte’s Aleksi Saarela scored an early power play goal at the 3:31 mark to put the Checkers ahead 3-2 after Hershey defenseman Lucas Johansen was called for hooking. The Checkers would strike again just under two minutes later on a goal from Marcus Kruger to pull ahead by two. The goal was Kruger’s fourth of the season. Despite a subsequent power play opportunity 30 seconds after Charlotte’s fourth goal, Hershey failed to convert on the man-advantage. However, Zach Sill would bring the Bears back within one at the 12:58 mark with his seventh of the season. The goal would prove to be the final goal of the period and the game for the Bears. They headed into the second intermission down on the scoreboard and in shots, 18-11.
While they did not score in the first few minutes like the previous two periods, the Checkers struck fairly early in the third, with another goal by Kuokkanen, who put the puck past Hershey goaltender Vitek Vanecek to give the Checkers another two-goal lead. Just 12 seconds later, Kuokannen scored his third tally of the game to earn himself the hat trick and put the Bears in a massive three-goal hole. Despite two power play opportunities before and after the two goals, Hershey failed to score, and after Nathan Walker was called for goaltender interference, Charlotte scored yet again, to cushion their lead to 6-3. Hershey saw two power play opportunities within the final five minutes of the period, but squandered both, and ultimately left the ice on the ugly end of a 7-3 score and in shots 29-17. The two teams combined for 13 power play opportunities, with Hershey converting on two of their eight, Charlotte on three of their five. Chris Bourque’s two goals (his 194th and 195th as a member of the Bears) placed him seventh all-time in franchise history in goals scored. Janne Kuokannen also had two assists in addition to his hat trick, giving him five points on the night. Having long been eliminated from Calder Cup Playoff contention, the Bears’ record now stands at 29-35-4-5. Hershey and Charlotte meet again tomorrow at 1:00 P.M.
By Michael Fleetwood