Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bears Win Chess Match Against Pens

For most of the first period when it was scoreless and in the second with it 1-0 Hershey, I couldn't help but get the feeling of the Bears possible reversion to the struggle for offense. While last night's game against Wilkes-Barre was another low scoring affair, both teams battled strategically as was evidenced with the amount of board play along the half wall and in the corners. The Bears and Pens would get equal amounts of shots while Pheonix Copley and Matt Murray would each have to fight through extended pressure by the opposition in their respective ends.

Luckily, Chris Conner would exact some revenge on his former team by scoring the Bears' two goals in the 2-1 win. This was Conner's best game since returning from injury a few weeks ago. He's played well in prior games and recorded some assists, but last night it seemed like his speed and stick handling returned to form.

Conner's second goal and ultimate game winner displayed his precise shooting ability, which we haven't been able to see much of this season. Because of his injury, Conner only has 2 goals in 8 games coming into Saturday night's game. On the rush and skating down the right side of the ice, Conner took a pass from Kennedy and ended up with some extra room as he entered the Pens' zone.

Taking a shot from around the right face-off dot, Conner hit the top left corner of the net just over Murray's shoulder and knocked the water bottle off the top of the net.

Pheonix Copley continued his excellent play and was strong all game. Heading into the backend of the third period, it looked like Copley might get his third shutout of the season. Unfortunately, Bryan Rust fanned on a shot attempt which left Copley out of position when Rust buried the puck on his second try.

Even still, with his record now 4-3-0 Copley has a 1.84 GAA and .929 SAA. Those are very solid numbers considering that he's played sparingly in the past few weeks. And with Hershey playing so well defensively, his numbers should continue to improve once he gets another 5-10 games under him this season. With where things sit so far, that says quite a lot about not only the team's overall play but Copley's as well.

Which brings to mind: with so much talk about the Bears' current offensive struggles, are we seeing Barry Trotz's defensive influence now starting to show up in Troy Mann's coaching style? Before the start of the season I mentioned that Mann has now been mentored under quite diverse coaching styles. He learned the offensive game from Boudreau and French. Now he's learning the defensive side from Trotz. The fact that they're winning games through solid defensive play might show that those weekly conversations between Mann and Trotz is paying off.

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