With three Bears defensemen currently enjoying life in the National Hockey League, Thursday the organization looked to bring in a helping hand to Chocolate Town.
The Hershey Bears played their final game in Canada on Saturday afternoon in a lunchtime matinee with the Toronto Marlies. Looking to bounce back from a heart-breaking shootout setback in Hamilton, the Bears struggled offensively with only three third period shots, and fell 2-1 at Ricoh Coliseum.
Keith Aucoin may be in a different uniform, but Hershey Bears fans treated him like he still wore the chocolate and white on Sunday night. Aucoin returned to Hershey for the first time since signing with Toronto in the off season. Aucoin got an ovation every time his name was announced and even when he took the ice in warmups.
With time running short in November, the Hershey Bears scrapped for a win Sunday night against the defending Western Conference Champions, Toronto Marlies. Four goals were scored in the first 40 minutes, leading to a much needed 4-2 win.
In a rare Wednesday night game, the Bears traveled to Canada to play the Toronto Marlies. Hershey had the overwhelming obstacle of defeating Jonas Gustavsson who is with the Marlies on a conditioning stint. He is definitely an NHL-caliber goaltender and did very well in his first two conditioning games. To beat him, you need to shoot often.
…which is the opposite of what the Bears did at first. However, Hershey did manage to get one past Gustavsson thanks to Andrew Joudrey who was playing in his first game since being out with an upper body injury. Welcome back, Captain! However, the Marlies, not exactly known for their power play skills, tied it up while Patrick McNeill (not O’Neill, as the Ricoh Coliseum guy announced) was in the box. Continuing their onslaught of shots, it was only a matter of time before they found the back of the net again right off an late period offensive zone face-off. By the end of the first period, the Marlies were out-shooting them 15 to 5.
I imagine there were some strong words delivered by the coaches during the first intermission because they Bears came out aggressive for the second period. Braden Holtby continued to be a rock in net, holding back the Marlies from obtaining an even bigger lead. Late in the period, the Bears got their first power play which then turned into a 5-on-3. Boyd Kane had a shot on goal that rebounded back out. A Marlie attempted to interrupt the pass but ended up deflected it right to Kyle Greentree who shot it back door.
It was a tie game doing into a big third period. Penalties were exchanged and the Marlies regained some power, outshooting the Bears by a wide margin once again. But there was no change in the score and so the teams traveled on to overtime. Despite beginning and ending overtime on the power play, the Bears were unable to convert and a shootout was needed to end this game.
When it come down to the shootout, Holtby showed them who was boss. He stopped all five Toronto shooters. Steve Pinizzotto, who had a great game in his home town with friends and family watching, was the only Hershey skater to beat Gustavsson. It was all Hershey needed, however. Bears win 3-2 (SO).
Hershey saw a new player tonight, Phil Oreskovic, who was signed to a professional tryout yesterday. It was the perfect game to pick for his debut as he was playing against his former club. Oreskovic played for the Marlies for the past four seasons. He knew what to expect and came out delivering the big hits.
It took about two and a half periods for Hershey to finally get that first goal. Steve Pinizzotto had a great assist on Boyd Kane‘s tip-in that broke Toronto’s shutout. Just about a minute later, Kyle Greentree scored on the power play and suddenly Hershey had all the momentum in the world.
Well, that is until that fateful giveaway by Dany Sabourin. It’s a play that I think he’ll be replaying in his head over and over. He skated behind the goal to get the puck and then passed to the side where a Marlie awaited. I’m sure the coaches played Sabourin tonight to show confidence in him after a great showing in Charlotte. However, that move didn’t really work. I know that fans will be ripping him apart and they have ample reason to. Tonight was not his best showing, but it was also not his worst either. However, that giveaway was probably the worst moment of his trying season so far. The highlight of the night came after he made a sprawling glove on a shorthanded try by Mike Zigomanis. Check out Kyle M’s amazing photo of it below!
The power play seems to miss Keith Aucoin…a lot. The Bears had two 5-on-3 power plays during the game and could not convert on either. They even allowed a handful of shorthanded tries. That’s not to say that Hershey wasn’t playing well. There were a lot of dazzling offensive sequences but nothing was finding the back of the net. The biggest reason for this is the Marlies goaltender, Jussi Rynnäs. The young goalie was fantastic and I think it was sheer exhaustion from the Marlies that turned the game in Hershey’s favor.
Two weeks ago, Captain Andrew Joudrey touched on the importance of having a great first period. As much fun as those come-from-behind victories are, it’s also fun to see a 60 minute effort.