The Baby Pens picked up a 4-3, shootout win over the Bears to kick off the season. Hershey started it off with a power play goal by Kyle Greentree (1) early in the first. Only two minutes later though the Pens had already taken a 2-1 lead on goals by Chris Collins and Nick Johnson.
Hershey tied it up at 2 before the first period was even half over as Steve Pinizzotto picked up his first of the year.
After 4 goals in the first 1o minutes of play the defenses (and more importantly, the goalies) got their feet under them and started making it difficult on the offenses. Andrew Hutchinson made it 3-2 Pens midway through the 2nd before Keith Aucoin tied it at 3 with his first goal of the year on a another Bears power play.
Overall there were numerous chances for both teams as the official shot count ended up 45-33 in favor of the Pens. I would say the majority of those were weak shots that resulted in slightly inflated numbers at the end of the game.
Both teams created chances and both had some mistakes. It was a very well played game considering it was the first of the year in my opinion. There isn't exactly an extended preseason (or training camp for that matter) in the AHL. That makes it difficult for players to develop familiarity with new teammates and/or line mates.
Hershey was breaking in new forwards on 3 of their lines and new defensemen on at least 2 pairings. Wilkes Barre was breaking in plenty of new pieces as well.
In the end the Bears struggled in the shootout as Holtby looked weak after making a good stop on the first shot as he allowed 3 straight goals to Pens shooters. But it wasn't all his fault as only one Bear, Francois Bouchard, managed to score a shootout goal. And no it wasn't on his spin-o-rama move either. Aucoin, Brian Willsie, and Mathieu Perreault all had a chance but none of them could score.
Overall, not a bad game to start of the season but definitely room for improvement too.
What Went Right:
- I really like the Bears 3rd line of Andrew Joudrey, Jay Beagle, and Steve Pinizzotto. French should definitely leave this line together for a while to see what they can do. Possibly the most complete line Hershey can bring as all 3 are capable of 15-20 goals a year and all 3 are strong defensive players. High energy, defensive shut down, and scoring...this line covers all the bases.
- Braden Holtby started a little shaky with a couple weak goals early but ended up having a solid game (until the shootout anyway) as he made 41 saves overall.
- The new blue liners played well for the Bears. Brian Fahey and Lawrence Nycholat were on the ice a lot and were very good most of the night. Fahey looked strong at both ends of the ice. Good to see considering the guys they have to replace.
- The power play was excellent. They finished 2 for 4 but the consistent pressure was the most impressive. Once they got it into the zone they seemed to be able to keep it there for the remainder of the try.
- Some minor communication errors...mainly due to new players with new lines and limited time to work together. 3 of Hershey's forward lines and 1 defensive pairing feature players that only returned to Hershey this past week. Those type of errors should be corrected after a few games and some more practices together.
- Obviously it is just one game but the shootout is somewhat bothersome. These don't matter come playoff time and many Hershey teams struggle in them but Holtby looked bad on a couple of those goals. Some of that might be due to good moves by the Pens but I would say a little bit of both.
- I don't think the 4th line got enough minutes. Ashton Rome, Trevor Bruess, and Dmitry Kugryshev made up the 4th line tonight and I think all 3 offer some significant potential. Kugryshev got some power play time but the other 2 were almost non-existent.
Next up is @Rochester tomorrow evening at 5:05. The Americans are coming in after winning tonight in Toronto 4-2. This will be the first of 4 meetings between the 2 teams this season and the first of 2 in the next 7 days as the Americans visit Giant Center next Saturday for the Hershey home opener.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!