The Hershey Bears battled the Manchester Monarchs at home for the first game in February. With playoff races weeks away from beginning and the Bears currently on the outside looking into the top eight teams in the conference, they looked for a bounce back effort against the the Monarchs. Martin Jones made 42 saves for Manchester, but the Bears squeaked past the Monarchs, 2-1.
The main story of the first period without any doubt was the superb play of both Hershey newcomers, Peter LeBlanc and Casey Wellman. Both men joined the roster in the middle of the week and made two-thirds of the Bears’ second offensive line. Despite several great shifts in the opening 20 minutes by the second line, combining for six shots on net, Hershey’s lone goal in the period came via Matt Clackson’s string.
Clackson, who is certainly not known for offense, suited for only his 16th game of the season. Only 2:05 into the contest, Matt Clackson from near the goal line sent a drop pass to an uncontested Barry Almeida. Almeida dangled through two Monarchs and unleashed a wrist shot from the slot into the net to give Hershey a 1-0 lead.
Head coach Mark French commented after the game on the production of the fourth line. “We were able to come out, establish and dictate the tempo. When you get contributions from unlikely sources it certainly helps.”
Shots after one period were 11-9 Bears, as Philipp Grubauer was yet to face any grade “A” opportunities against.
The star of the middle period was Manchester goaltender Martin Jones. The Bears’ offense kept their foot on the gas pedal and mustered a season high of 19 shots in the second period. Through 40 minutes Jones stopped 29 of Hershey’s 30 shots. It could of easily been the Bears’ best offensive night of the season, but they only has one goal to show for it.
Coach French praised the job done by the Wellman-Potulny-Leblanc offensive line following the game. “Potulny’s line started each period off and I thought they did a good job of establishing what we wanted to do and get momentum to start periods.”
Into the third frame, Hershey desperately looked for insurance, as the Monarchs looked to break the Bears’ momentum with a sinking equalizer.
Over five minutes into the frame, Hershey’s Cameron Schilling found the much needed insurance goal to give the Bears a 2-0 lead on what might be the goal of the season. Schilling made a beautiful run around the perimeter of the entire offensive zone. At the end of his run, he crashed the net on a sharp angle to receive a pass from Mike Carman and score his fourth goal of the season.
With 5:54 remaining, the Monarchs broke Grubauer’s bid for his first professional shutout. Linden Vey tallied through a scrum of bodies in front to put Manchester on the score sheet. The Bears hung on for a thrilling 2-1 Saturday win at Giant Center.