During the first half of the 3rd period, I thought to myself how this was a good early season test for the Bears in holding onto a one goal lead. By the time there was 5 minutes left in the game, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were up 4-2 and would go on to win the game.
Hershey had the better overall play throughout the game up until that last half of the third period. Continuing to use their speed, cycle game and excellent passing, there were times when the Bears overwhelmed the Phantoms and pinned them in their own end. But the Phantoms kept hanging in there and just wouldn't go away. So how did the Bears let the game slip away?
As Coach Troy Mann is quoted in Tim Leone's post game Penn Live blog post, the Bears ended up playing too much in the neutral zone and there were too many turnovers. The worst turnover came on the Phantom's third goal when Andrew Gordon stripped the puck from the Hershey defender trying to skate out of the corner. Gordon then spun around, got a quick shot off and Darroll Powe put in the rebound for his second of the game. This was about a minute after Lehigh Valley had tied it 2-2.
Physicality and fights were also prevalent. The Phantoms used their size well and doled out some big hits. The most notable was Jay Rosehill lining up Patrick Wey along the far boards near the Phantom's blue line. Wey didn't return and no penalty was called on the hit. Now, while I saw the hit coming, it was difficult to tell to what degree Wey had his head down and how much control of the puck he had. So it could have been just a bit of a late hit. Either way, it lead to a fight between Rosehill and Tim Spencer.
The third period saw a huge fight between Garrett Mitchell and defenseman Steven Delisle. I got to hand it to Mitchell. He was outmatched in overall size and took a pounding in the process, but he really hung in there against Delisle. Mitchell is listed as 5'10", 188lbs. while Delisle goes 6'6", 209lbs. But Garrett seemed to be wound up and ready to go last night as he previously got a roughing penalty (basically an instigator) in the second for going after Rosehill before Spencer got involved in that fight.
This Phantoms team played a lot better than I expected and definitely had the backing of their boisterous hometown crowd. However, this loss is a good early lesson for the young Bears. As Mann further stated post game, "you've got to buckle down and play the right way." A tough lesson to be sure, but next time they'll be ready when another game like this arises.