The Hershey Bears returned home tonight after being on the road for much of October. They took the ice against the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and battled through a strenuous 60 minutes of hockey. The Bears had a thick layer of Wolf Pack players to penetrate and puck deflections seemed to end up everywhere but in the net. The Wolf Pack used every inch of their body to block the 23 shots on goal by the Bears; they certainly have a good understanding and application of traffic in front of the net.
Throughout the game the Bears had two 5 on 3 power play opportunities. Each time it took them a while to successfully enter the zone and set up their play. With the clock ticking and time a wasting, the only way to score was if they shot the puck. Only during the 1st period’s 5 on 3 power play were they rewarded when Jeff Taffe put the Bears on the score board, 1-0. The Bears were wining puck battles but losing pucks to interceptions and it was not long before the Wolf Pack found the back of the net to even the score, 1-1.
Adding a little momentum to the game, the 2nd period started with a fight but the excitement was short lived as the unusual lull of the Giant Center returned. The Wolf Pack ganged up in order to rocket the puck past Bears goaltender Philipp Grubauer and gained the lead. Finally, after applying copious amounts of pressure, Hershey Bear Chay Genoway found the top corner of the net, tying the game, 2-2. Not long after, Michael Latta navigated through the Wolf Pack’s thick traffic, taking the puck to the net twice, impressing a home crowd yet again with his puck handling skills, scoring on his back hand to reclaim the lead, 3-2.
With an early and a mid-3rd period goal for the Hartford Wolf Pack, they secured the game win, 4-3. The Bears just could not find the net with the puck due to the human shields deflecting shots. The Wolf Pack consistently added an extra layer of players in front of goaltender Scott Stajcer, forcing the Bears to work extra hard to navigate their territory. Whether there were 3 players or 5 players out on the ice for the Wolf Pack, they were able to cover the ice and appear to be everywhere.
Though still early in the season, the Bears appear to be working through some learning curves but will want to be on top of their game tomorrow as they face a former team of Head Coach Mike Haviland, the Norfolk Admirals.
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