A Tough Hill to Climb – 4/10

Not only is the climb to the top of the Atlantic Division mountain a difficult task (or, for the Hershey Bears, cementing that flag at the top once you get there), so was the climb to try to salvage a point in last night’s game at GIANT Center.

Coming from behind is one thing.  Coming from behind by more than three goals is another.  But the Bears nearly accomplished the feat, and had a golden opportunity to do so.  But the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins find ways to win.  You may hear many of their fans complain about the numerous recalls, “Pittsburgh pilfering”, or “lack of concern” for the AHL affiliate.  I have to laugh.  Somehow, some way, the arch-rivals have something on their side when it comes to taking on Hershey.

The team goes 0-for-40 in shots on goal on Friday and loses 4-0 to Lehigh Valley, a squad now playing out the season.  One night later – with a third-string-at-best goaltender getting the start in front over well over 10,000 fans – they manage just 18 shots on the Hershey net, score just enough to jump out early and later hang on for a 4-3 win.

It sure is frustrating.  But that’s what makes this rivalry so awesome to watch play out.

Last night Dan Ellis was replaced by Justin Peters after four goals got past him on 12 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shots – NONE of which can be pinned on him.  Then the Bears pounced.

Carter Camper scores on a beautiful deflection minutes later, and Hershey buckles down defensively to allow just six shots to get to Peters.  Chris Bourque blows a slapper past Foster for a milestone goal early in the third, and suddenly it’s a one-goal game.  The power-play strike by Bourque was preceded by another chance on the man advantage that brought a rain of boos from the crowd after Penguins defenseman Tim Erixon lifted the net entirely off its moorings when Foster was under fire by Ryan Bourque.  Scoring on that delay-of-game power play would have, in my opinion, got the Bears a victory.

Later, Travis Boyd absorbs a high stick from first-star Dominik Simon, and the Bears embark on a four-minute power play.  Enter crowd noise, enter momentum boost again.

But nothing.

The Penguins hung on and claimed a 4-3 win.

It was blatantly obvious that the game was lost from the start.  Troy Mann is looking for the best start of the season from his lineup tonight, one which will be without one of the Bears’ best forecheckers, penalty killers and faceoff men this season in Zach Sill (recalled to Washington on an emergency basis).

Expect Peters back in net, who is 3-0-1 with one no-decision in his last five appearances.

Game notes are set here.  Air time is 3:25.