"We were wondering, Well, maybe did our team jell a little bit too early, because things came together so quickly those first three weeks. We were very good defensively. From a systems perspective, we were excellent. But then you start winning some games early. A rut and a groove, there's a fine line there."
If you lose one or two games in a row, that's one thing. But patterns have been emerging recently and this is Hershey's first taste of adversity in the 2014-15 season. The question is how they will dig themselves out of this current "rut".
The Bears certainly didn't start the game appearing as though they have an answer. In their worst first period so far, the Bears were outshot in the period 20-9 and down 2-0 within the first seven minutes. It took almost that long for Hershey to register it's first shot of the game.
Granted, the Bears were able to claw back into the game with a goal in each of the second and third periods while limiting the Phantoms to 5 and 7 shots per period, respectively. However, Hershey wasn't able to control the play in either the offensive or defensive zones. The main difference compared to earlier in the season that keeps coming up is the absence of the great passing and cycle game.
Perhaps it's in reaction to their struggles, but Hershey has been playing the dump and chase game while trying to get chances off the rush. Other than Dane Byers power play goal, the Bears' best opportunities and Newbury's goal came off the rush.
The game appeared to become equitable when both teams devolved into a run and gun style the last half of the third period. Chandler Stephenson had the best chance in the last 10 minutes when he blew down the left wing past the Phantom's defenseman for a partial breakaway. Stephenson made a nice deke for a backhand shot but Rob Zepp just got a piece of it with his glove.
At the start of the overtime, Connor Carrick somehow gets called for tripping that no one saw except for the referee. Despite the bad call, Joel Broda found himself on a breakaway right off the face-off and could have ended the game but unfortunately shot the puck wide and missed the net.
So now to the 3-on-3 overtime. You've no doubt read my previous post about this. And watching this extended 3-on-3, the following came to mind: this is pond hockey. During the NHL's Winter Classic they always make such a big to-do about playing outside on the frozen pond. Well, the 3-on-3 overtime is the perfect representation of that. So much for a structured and professional game.
Also, both teams attempted to hold back and play the zone to limit the 2-on-1 chances. The thing about the 3-on-3 overtime is that because there are so few players on the ice an abundance of offensive chances are inevitable.
Chris Conner had a breakaway and almost won the game with a Peter Forsberg move but Zepp made an outstanding left toe save. Likewise, Lehigh Valley forward Kevin Goumas had a breakaway in the final seconds of the overtime.
So apparently the AHL has shifted from 5 shooters to 3 in the shootout. After newcomer Blair Jones scored the Phantom's only shootout goal, Dustin Gazley stick handled himself out of a shot and the game was over. However, no one on the ice knew it; not even the refs. Everyone stood around for awhile until they figured it out. The only person who did know was the Phantom's broadcaster, Steve Degler. To quote, "The Phantoms have won the game. I might be an idiot, but at least I know the rule change and there are only 3 shooters instead of 5".