Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bears win in OT...Game 4 on Friday

The Bears live to play another day.  Ryan Potulny's goal, 2:57 into overtime, finished off an up and down game for the Bears as they won for the first time March 28.

Hershey skated to a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by DJ King and Cameron Schilling.  But Wilkes-Barre would get one back in the 2nd and the tying goal about 6 minutes into the 3rd period to make it a 2-2 game. 

The teams traded goals over the final 7 minutes of the 3rd period to force overtime where the Bears actually outshot the Pens 4-0 and picked up the win.

Yes it was a win.  Yes I am excited for game 4 on Friday night. 

But if the Bears intend to make this a real series and go back to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, this needs to be the first step in the process.

Wilkes-Barre dominated the first few minutes of the game and it was beginning to look a lot like games 1 and 2 sounded.  Hershey couldn't get the puck out of their zone and had to block multiple shots and get saves from Dany Sabourin to stay even on the scoreboard.

The difference between the first 2 games of the series and last night?  Hershey scored first.  You could see the confidence grow when they got that goal and took their first lead of the series.  They started making crisper passes and seemed calmer with the puck. 

Unfortunately the Bears needed to readjust each period.  At the start of the 2nd and 3rd periods it was very similar.  Wilkes-Barre controlled the puck and Hershey couldn't get it out.  Poor clear attempts and hasty moves with the puck led to countless turnovers in their own end. 

In the 3rd period it cost them as Wilkes-Barre only left the offensive zone a couple of times in the first 6 minutes and picked up the tying goal at the end of that. 
But the Bears used the confidence they showed after scoring their first goal after each Wilkes-Barre tally and didn't let the game get away from them. 

It was an impressive performance considering the outcome of games 1 and 2. 

There is still work to be done though.

Today at practice I would have Mike Carman, Ryan Potulny, Andrew Carroll, and Cody Eakin working on faceoffs against each other for the entire practice. 

That was some of the worst faceoff performance I can remember seeing.  The AHL does not track faceoff stats so there is no telling how bad it really was but I would say Hershey won no more than 25% of the draws and that might be a high estimate.

Hershey overcame the problem last night thanks to a ton of blocked shots and Dany making some key saves...but if they continue to perform that poorly then they will struggle to compete in the coming game(s).

The other thing I was seeing involved the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team speed.  After games 1 and 2 and even during the game last night I heard how much fast the Pens are then the Bears. 

I didn't see it.  Speed in sports is many times overrated. 

The reason the Pens appear faster than Hershey is because they are playing better positionally and executing their schemes better than the Bears are.  If you are lining up and rotating properly every time then you are going to look so much faster than the other team because you are always where the loose pucks are. 

And that's what happened for long stretches last night.  Wilkes-Barre would get the pucks in the zone and then move it with precision and confidence and would keep the puck in the zone for minutes at a time. 

Very rarely did you see the Pens make poor clearing passes or not have someone in the spot where a teammate expected them to be. 

Hershey?  How many times did you see clearing attempts blocked along the Bears or passes that were thrown to empty space as someone was out of position? 

I saw it quite a bit.  Wilkes-Barre's precision made the Bears look extremely disorganized.  Maybe the Bears weren't as disorganized as they looked at times...maybe the Pens were just that efficient.  But any way you look at, the Bears need to improve before tomorrow night.

Overall it was a good win.  An important win (obviously). 

But there is still improvements to be made and work to be done.  Wilkes-Barre's goaltending is not going to win them this or any series.  Hershey can (and did last night) take advantage of that...scoring 4 goals on only 22 shots. 

The Bears CAN win this series.  They just need to slow the game down (mentally) and improve their execution. 

Game 3 was a good first step.  Game 4 needs to go a step further.


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