The Hershey Bears looked to conclude a perfect weekend sweep against East Division teams on Sunday with a tilt against the Syracuse Crunch. It was the fourth meeting of the season between the Bears and Crunch with Hershey looking for their first victory against Tampa Bay Lightning’s top affiliate.
World Wrestling Entertainment legend Ric Flair often infamously said, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” Sunday evening the Bears beat the man of the Eastern Conference with a stunning 5-3 win over the top seeded Crunch.
The Bears won their first game the previous night when trailing after 20 minutes. Unfortunately for Hershey, they would have to succeed in a comeback for the second straight night. After drawing first blood against the Crunch, Syracuse battled back to take a 2-1 lead heading into first intermission.
Jon DiSalvatore from the low-slot scored for the home team after a feed came from Jeff Taffe behind the Crunch net. The goal at the 6:53 mark of the first seemed fitting for Hershey as they showed a good pace and tempo in the early going.
However only 1:54 after the Bears struck first, Kyle Wilson turned on his jets to knot the game at 1-1. Syracuse carries a reputation of being a speedy team. Moments after DiSalvatore delighted the Hershey fans, Jean-Francois Jacques showed exactly why his team is such a threat with speed. Jacques cut into his offensive zone on an even man rush with Wilson and threw a quick shot on Dany Sabourin. After the first shot was pillowed away with Sabourin’s left leg pad, the rebound squirted right to Wilson for him to tie the game.
Being the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Crunch are also known as a squad who loves to make others pay for their mistakes. In the final minute of the first frame, the Bears’ looked to mentally check out of the game with several unacceptable, defensive zone turnovers. With 35 seconds left on the clock, Tyler Johnson blasted a slap shot to the top shelf of the net for his 29th goal of the season after a failed clear attempt.
Only 73 seconds into the second period, Evan Oberg opened a two-goal cushion for the Crunch. A fired shot from the point deflected off a skate in front of Sabourin and into the cage. Following a minute long video review looking for a kicking motion, the tally was confirmed. Dany Sabourin was replaced by Philipp Grubuaer while the review occurred. After the game, Head Coach Mark French explained his surprising decision to switch goaltenders. “I wasn’t overly critical of the goals. It was just a sense that we needed things to change.”
With Syracuse eyeing their 22nd road win of the season, Jeff Taffe suddenly tied the game with back-to-back strikes before the conclusion of the second. 42 seconds past the midway mark of the period, Steve Oleksy entered his offensive third of the ice on an odd-man rush. Following a perfect cross-ice feed to Taffe, he ripped a perfect one-timer from one knee past Cedrick Desjardins.
With 3:27 left until intermission, Taffe from nearly the same area of the ice surprised Desjardins with a quick wrist shot into the upper portion of the net. The Giant Center crowd grew electric as the period ended with the Bears tied with the team in the East.
Into the third period with each team throwing opportunities back and forth like a boxing match, Cameron Schilling tallied the game winning goal for Hershey. With two guys driving to the net, Schilling received credit for a puck squeaking through the pads of Desjardins and into the net. The goal came with only 8:44 remaining in regulation.
Oddly enough, despite the tally only being Schilling’s sixth goal of the 2012-13 campaign, he is the team leader in game winning tallies.
Minutes later Casey Wellman joined the party by adding an insurance goal on a breakaway to cap a thrilling 5-3 win over the Syracuse Crunch. Wellman forced a turnover in front of his own bench as the Crunch looked to claw for a game tying marker.
The home ice victory capped a perfect three games in three nights weekend for the Hershey Bears. The Bears won all three games in regulation against three separate East Division opponents.