It was made evident in Game 1 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals the difference between the Hershey Bears and Toronto Marlies.
Last night, the Marlies drew first blood midway through the first period on a quick transition following a neutral zone turnover. All night long, Toronto’s grade “A” scoring chances were generated off the transition, and were mostly once and done opportunities.
The Chocolate and White rallied off three unanswered goals, with the first two being even strength. For Carter Camper’s strike at 3:39 of the second period, and Liam O’Brien’s goal at the third period’s 2:51 mark, a common theme was established.
For the final 50 minutes of regulation, Hershey’s theme was possessing the puck in the offensive zone, using the boards to their advantage, and opening up holes in the Marlies’ defensive zone coverage. Continuous pressure on the forecheck led to Camper’s and O’Brien’s chances to come from the slot.
It was evident Toronto’s defense struggled in collapsing in their zone and protecting the slot area. This is an area where Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was proficient in the previous series.
Onto Game 2 tonight at GIANT Center, the Bears will look for a 2-0 series lead before heading north. In my opinion, the biggest key for Hershey is to play their game, and not Toronto’s. Take care of the puck in the neutral zone and prevent the Marlies from gaining chances on the transition.
The infamous “blue collar” mentality that Troy Mann has prided his team on since October was good enough to defeat the top team in the AHL. Stick to the same mentality and work ethic, and hope for the same result.
Puck drop is at 7 PM, air time is 6:20.
Submitted by Matt Trust