The Hershey Bears Hockey Club returned home to “Defend the Den” for the first time this weekend. They returned home following late game heroics in Hartford last night, which unfortunately ended in a 4-3 shootout loss.
The Bears and Phantoms combined for ten regulation goals the last time they met. It was on Black Friday, and goals were a plenty with Lehigh goaltender Anthony Stolarz scratched.
Tonight it was Stolarz in goal, and he was busy in the opening 20 minutes from puck drop. The Chocolate and White dominated, jumping out to a 10-0 shot run to start. But, the Phantoms capitalized on Hershey’s inability to cash in, and Nick Cousins scored on a rebound following a 2-on-1 rush with 5:03 to play.
This is where the mental toughness aspect of the game needs to be in full swing for the Bears. Tremendous opening period for Hershey, where they seemingly did everything right, but trail, 1-0 at intermission.
Into the middle frame, the Chocolate and White continued to throw the kitchen sink at Anthony Stolarz, and he remained up to the task. Stolarz also faced a shooting gallery from the perimeter, and did an outstanding job controlling rebounds and avoiding second chances at the net front. 40 minutes down and still nothing to show for it offensively.
Hard work pays off. It’s a cliche phrase, but tonight it couldn’t be more true. All night, the Bears threw stones at the brick wall which was Anthony Stolarz. In third period, the wall was broken, and the Hershey Bears came away victorious.
With 9:37 left, Dustin Gazley drove the net and finished a crisp feed from Paul Carey. He was able to beat Stolarz low after getting him moving side to side. It appeared another overtime game was on the horizon at GIANT Center, but Chris Bourque had other ideas.
Bourque potted a shot to the top corner of the net on an offensive rush with 21 seconds to play. Hershey turned around 1-0 deficit in the third period and won it 2-1.
Give the entire roster credit for the effort put in today. They stuck to the game plan, kept the foot on the gas pedal for 60 minutes, and in the end, were rewarded. Shots on goal are evident of that, as the Bears held Lehigh Valley to five shots in each period. The final total was 44-15 in favor of Hershey. As Troy Mann described it in the press conference, “The better team won tonight.”
See you tomorrow!
Submitted by intern Matt Trust