It may not have been a 60 minute, complete game effort by the Hershey Bears like Head Coach Mike Haviland has been preaching, but it was awfully close. Brandon Segal tallied two goals and earned first star honors in a convincing 5-1 Saturday night win against the Western Conference Rochester Americans.
A night after being blanked in Adirondack, worries of a possible goal drought began rising after a scoreless first period for the Bears. The Americans jumped to an early 1-0 advantage only 5:19 into the contest. Joel Armia blasted a one-timer from the slot after receiving a crisp pass from the far side corner boards off the blade of Phil Varone. Armia was left uncontested between the two face off circles leading to Rochester’s only goal.
According to Haviland’s post game press conference, the Bears’ opening minutes were “sluggish”, but were thankfully the lowest point of the night.
Without question, a detrimental key needed towards a team’s success is good special teams. The power play has been a category of concern for the 2013 portion of the regular season, entering play ranked 24th in the American Hockey League at 13.8%.
Saturday was a perfect example of how a working power play can make wins flow smoother. The Bears went an outstanding 3-for-5 on the man-advantage including two late second period strikes to gain a 2-1 lead before second intermission. It was the first time this season the Chocolate and White tallied three power play goals in a single game.
On a 5-on-3 advantage with 3:03 remaining in the middle stanza, Brandon Segal opened the scoring for Hershey. After a fantastic cycle near the face off circle to the right of Matt Hackett, Segal was left in the near side corner with a lane to walk to goal line. Segal cut to the front of the net and stuffed a quick shot into the net to tie the game.
Only 44 seconds later, still on the power play, Casey Wellman unleashed his inner Alexandre Giroux with a rocket of a one-timer to give his club their first lead before the second period expired. With two quick power play goals, Hershey’s momentum was riding high into the break.
Prior to both goals, Hershey did not struggle to throw chances near harms way for Hackett, as they out shot Rochester 24-12 after 40 minutes.
The foot remained on the gas pedal into the third period, setting the stage for Cameron Schilling’s first goal of the campaign. Picture perfect one-timers for goals are fun to watch, but nothing makes Coach Haviland smile more than watching a goal develop off hard work, grit and players crashing the net. Schilling pinched deep into the offensive end, crashed the goal to poke a loose puck through the goalie’s five-hole for a Hershey two goal lead.
With 12:08 left in regulation, Segal added his second power play goal of the night after crashing the blue paint and sliding another loose puck into the net.
Down by three goals and possessing a power play with four minutes left, Rochester Head Coach Chadd Cassidy yanked Hackett and placed him on the bench for the extra attacker. During his short stay on the bench, it appeared a fan behind the visiting bench caught the attention of Hackett, leading to a near incident at Giant Center.
Matt Watkins added the shorthanded, empty net goal to round out the scoring and send the Americans back to Rochester with a 5-1 defeat.