The Hershey Bears battled the Adirondack Phantoms last night, who ultimately took hold of the game in Chocolatetown dropping the Bears 4-3 during their home opener. The Bears struggled with an ineffective power play, although they were granted 5 opportunities throughout the game they could not keep the puck in the Phantoms zone. The Phantoms dominated the power kill and had a strong fore-check that the Bears could not overcome, as they battled back from a first period deficit to hold a one goal lead for a short period of time.
The Phantoms dominated the first period, walking two goals into the Bears net by team captain Ben Holmstron and next by top prospect Tye McGinn. The Phantoms claimed their 2 goal lead only 3:48 into the contest and held it through the first period, meanwhile the Bears went 0-3 on their power play opportunities. The Phantoms were playing a very physical game, not very surprising being that their affiliate is the Philadelphia Flyers, they forced Joel Rechlicz to drop the gloves twice with Zack FitzGerald and Derek Mathers.
“We looked so nervous and I didn’t know why. We were grabbing the sticks tight, it was everyone. Our nerves got to us. We had forty minutes to go and we had to start chipping away,” said the Bears’ coach of the first period deficit.
Early in the second period, Nate Schmidt blasted the puck, getting the Bears on the board with a top-shelf goal, cutting the Phantoms lead in half. Michael Latta had the crowd on their feet as he grabbed a turn-over and scored a beautiful break-away shorthanded goal. The Phantoms took their foot off the gas and Bears Left Winger Derek Whitmore upped the ante to score and closed the second period with a lead for the Bears.
Haviland spoke highly of the chemistry between Derek Whitmore and Michael Latta saying, “I liked him a lot. He and Latta had some sort of spark together so we put them together right away. They for sure will be a pair going forward into our next game. He plays hard and he works, when you work you get results. Those two guys were our best two forwards tonight for sure.”
The Bears were suffering from turn-overs all over the ice and a thin line of defense in front of Grubauer made turn over turn into easy scoring opportunities for the Phantoms. The Phantoms were anticipating moves very well and they were everywhere the Bears were trying to go, making it impossible for the Bears to get across the blue line. Tying the game, the Phantoms pushed this contest into overtime. The Bears suffered an offensive turn over in front of the net during OT and a goal off a rebound by Phantoms Brandon Maning ended the Bears home opener in a loss.
Recording his first game behind the Bears bench head coach Mike Haviland said, “Our compete level has to go way up. We got outworked in the first, I liked that we battled back in the second, but way too high risk on the backend. We turned pucks over [and] we made some poor decisions on our pinches and our reads. That has to change, more of a simple game and more of a complete game from everybody.”
The Hershey Bears will not face the Adriondack Phantoms again until January 3, 2014 by then Haviland will have taken care of the power play and turn over issues, and hopefully they will settle into a chemistry on the ice that will lead to more wins and a run at the Calder Cup. As the Bears first game goes into the record books for the 2013-14 season, the coaching staff has a good bit of video to review and learn from before the Bears hit to road October 12th to square off against Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, whom they beat in pre-season.