Saturday night's game at Giant Center against the Hartford Wolf Pack was definitely a "tale of two games" for the Bears. The first 50 minutes saw the Wolf Pack dominate the Bears both in overall play and on the score sheet as the Bears found themselves down 2-0. However, at the 10 minute mark of the 3rd period Hershey would overtake Hartford and score 4 unanswered goals in route to a 4-2 win.
While Hershey came out skating better than they did Friday night, the team continued to struggle with passing and break outs of the defensive zone as was also apparent in the Wilkes-Barre game. This breakdown in the basics of the game is a bit disconcerting as passing and the cycle game in all zones of the ice has been one of the Bears strongest points so far this season.
Despite being outshot in the first period, it appeared like we might be in for a goaltenders battle as both Grubauer and Desjardins had to come up with some big saves early on. Most notable was on a Wolf Pack power play when both Ryan Bourque and Chris Mueller found themselves alone in front of Grubauer who had to make two quick saves (the one on Mueller with a lunging right pad and blocker) to keep the game scoreless.
Hartford would make it 1-0 in the back end of the first period and 2-0 about midway through the second. At that point the energy seemed to be gone from the Bears in much the same way it was in the prior night's game against the Pens. The tension with the fans in attendance was noticeable.
A bright spot came towards the end of the second when Conner Carrick plastered Ryan Potulny in the right corner behind Grubauer. This would prove to be one of the turning points in the game as it got the Bears more physically engaged in the game and put some energy back in the crowd. Tim Leone has a good write-up on Penn Live about the hit and the overall play of Conner Carrick last night. I actually thought the Carrick hit would be the Crunch of the Game but that honor went to Steve Olesky who lined up Ryan Bourque who had his head down as he had just crossed the Bears blue line along the boards.
The Bears struggled on the power play all game long going 0-4 until around the 10 minute mark of the third when Casey Wellman would notch a power play goal to get the Bears on the board. It should be noted that the Bears' fifth power play opportunity is owed to Dustin Gazley who blew by Wolf Pack defender Dallas Jackson and then was blatantly hooked down. Gazley was clearly far enough ahead of Jackson that it should have been a penalty shot. Either way, Hershey was back in the game now only down 2-1.
At that point the whole game turned on a dime and the Bears controlled the play. A little more than a minute later Conner Carrick, while cutting to the middle of the ice just above the hash marks, would put a long wrist shot between the pads of Desjardins to tie the game at 2. Then with about 4 minutes left Kris Newbury would tip in a huge slap shot from Wellman standing along far side wall and to make it 3-2 Hershey. Upon replay, it was tough to tell if anyone touched that shot or if Wellman just blew it right by the Wolf Pack goalie.
Newbury would add an empty netter to seal the win 4-2 and the Bears' comeback was complete. Watching the first and second periods of last night's game I don't think anyone expected Hershey to pull off that win in the last 10 minutes. However, going into the third Scott Stuccio kept commenting on how the Bears could spark a comeback like the Pens did the night before.
The two games the Bears have played against the Wolf Pack this season have been Hershey's most exciting so far. The 1-0 overtime victory for Pheonix Copely's first career shutout and last night's comeback have provided the kind of action a fan likes to see in a hockey game. Let's hope that the third game against Hartford tonight at Giant Center continues that trend.