Saturday night at Giant Center the Hershey Bears squared off with the second oldest franchise in the American Hockey League, the Rochester Americans. It wasn’t just a hockey game, but a celebration among Hershey Bears fans, players and staff members. Saturday the Bears celebrated 75 years of hockey.
Jeff Taffe, and the Hershey Bears looked to show Rochester why Hershey is the sweetest place on earth, not just for its sweet chocolate, but for its hockey. Both teams exploded offensively, but the Amerks overcame two, three-goal deficits to beat Hershey, 8-7.
Into the opening period at Giant Center for the 2012-13 season, the Bears fired 14 shots on Americans’ goaltender David Leggio, and hit pay-dirt three times.
With 12:03 left in the frame, Garrett Mitchell entered the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Taffe. Mitchell slid a pass across for Taffe to bank into the net to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead for the second consecutive night.
Nearly seven minutes later, Rochester knotted the game at one goal a side off an ugly chip shot from the slow-slot. Amerks’ forward Rick Schofield floated a shot into the air, over Sabourin, and into the Hershey cage. An unusual goal, but nonetheless the game was tied.
In the final three minutes of the frame, it was all Hershey as they punched two quick goals past David Leggio to grab a 3-1 lead at first intermission. At the 17:24 mark, Garrett Stafford fired a shot on net from the blue line. Garrett Mitchell sat on the goal mound looking tip, and he found a present in the blue-paint that was jammed into the back of the net.
With momentum flowing on the Bears’ bench, Rochester’s T.J. Brennan was sent off for a cross-check at 18:15, giving Hershey their first power play. After tremendous puck movement on the man-advantage not allowing Rochester to clear the puck, Tomas Kundratek snapped a shot from the high-slot through of screen of bodies. The Bears have now capitalized on the power play in all of their first three games.
In the middle frame, the furious scoring parade continued for both sides. The Bears continued to receive chances on the power play, and continued to score on Rochester. Jon DiSalvatore opened the scoring on a 5-on-3 power play goal, to give the Bears a 4-1 lead. Rochester’s Evan Rankin scored on a power play of his own at 5:30 to cut the Hershey lead back down to two goals.
Ryan Stoa scored for the Bears on another power play goal at 8:45 to restore Hershey’s three goal lead, but the Amerks battled back fast and furious on Dany Sabourin. Luke Adam began the three unanswered goals rally for the Americans scoring seven seconds into his man-advantage following a DiSalvatore delay of game infraction for flipping the puck over the glass.
Marcus Foligno tallied at the 13:07 mark, and T.J. Brennan beat Sabourin with a rocket of a wrist shot to the top-shelf, tying the game at 5-5. Shots after two frames were 31-16 in favor of Hershey. The far majority of the Americans’ scoring chances came while transitioning on an offensive zone rush. Sabourin in the period faced three 2-on-1 rushes and a countless number of 2-on-2 chances.
With the final frame underway, the third period started out in rather misleading fashion. Only 79 seconds in, Mattias Sjogren tallied for the Bears to give them an early 6-5 lead. One would think an early third period, momentum building goal would lead to a Hershey “W”, but Rochester continued to fight back and score in bunches.
Not only did the Americans again score three unanswered goals to take a 8-6 lead, but all three tallies came on the power play. Rochester finished the game with staggering power play numbers, going 4-for-6. Both Foligno and Brennan scored their second of the night to lead Rochester’s late surge.
The game-winner, however, came at the 12:37 mark when Mark Mancari scored his second goal of the young season. Ryan Stoa, for Hershey answered with 1:43 left to cut the deficit down to one. But, despite a Hershey time out and an extra attacker on, the Bears fell short and lost a heart-breaker by a final of 8-7.