Entering the month of April, the Hershey Bears are aware the Calder Cup Playoffs will only be in their near future if they can string wins together away from Giant Center. To kick off the month, the Bears began their five game road-trip, the longest of the 2013-14 season.
Wednesday marked the first night of the lengthy road trip with a joust against the Portland Pirates. Already eliminated from possible playoff contention, the Pirates hoped to play the role of spoiler against the Chocolate and White.
Caleb Herbert made his professional hockey debut and tallied a goal and assist in a grand 3-2 victory. The win leaped the Bears into the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference standings, one point ahead of Norfolk.
Although it was a perfection of an end result, the opening minutes of regulation were imperfect for Hershey. Tobias Rieder tallied his 27th goal of the season at the 5:05 mark of the first period on David Leggio. Kris Newbury lost a defensive zone face off leading to a turn-around slap shot by Rieder for the quick strike.
But only 27 seconds later, Jeff Taffe answered for Hershey. Herbert received the primary assist on Taffe’s transition charge.
Portland regained the lead 4:58 before intermission break off a Hershey defensive breakdown. A quick 3-on-1 rush developed for the Pirates, and Andy Miele waited out Leggio in the low slot and scored into a wide-open net.
Into the middle stanza, Herbert tied the game with his first professional goal on a pretty move towards the cage, and Newbury scored the eventual game-winner. Only 21 seconds into the period, Herbert cut towards the net and went to a quick backhand shot which surprised Portland netminder Louis Domingue.
8:22 later, Newbury crashed the net to score his 15th goal of the season. As a member of the Adirondack Phantoms, Newbury was engaged in a brawl between the Phantoms and Pirates on the same sheet of ice several weeks ago. The game-winning-goal for Newbury against Portland has to rank among one of his best personal moments of the season.
Hershey carried their first lead of the night into the third period, and would not let go. Despite countless third period waves of pressure by the Portland offensive, including a power play chance in the final three minutes, the Bears pulled out the 3-2 win to advance one point past the Norfolk Admirals in the standings.
The next round of the Bears’ five game road trip is on Saturday, in Worcester, Massachusetts.