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AHL Game Recap/Analysis

Checkers Outlast Bears in Shootout

#AHL | On Sunday’s rematch between @TheHersheyBears and @CheckersHockey, special teams went from being Hershey’s saviors to their villains. @FPHBears has the recap.

Aaron Ness and Henry Bowlby battle in front of Hunter Shepard. Photo via Charlotte Checkers on Twitter.

Checkers Outlast Bears in Shootout

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Saturday in Charlotte, it was special teams that became the story of how the Hershey Bears defeated the Charlotte Checkers. On Sunday, in the rematch, the special teams proved to be the Bears’ downfall, as a pair of missed opportunities on two-man advantages kept the Checkers in the game. Then a late goal from Henry Bowlby sent the game to overtime and eventually a shootout. Riley Nash and Zac Dalpe tallied in the skills competition to complete the comeback for the Checkers in a 3-2 decision at Bojangles’ Coliseum. Mack Guzda took the win with 30 saves, while Hunter Shepard suffered the loss with 20 stops as the Bears exited Charlotte with three of a possible four points on the weekend.

It was a good start and a great effort from the Bears, who opened the scoring on the first shot of the game as Lucas Johansen made an excellent head-up pass to Ethen Frank behind the defense. Hershey’s leading scorer slipped the puck past Guzda on the backhand for his second goal in as many games and 23rd of the season to make it 1-0. Johansen, inserted in the lineup as the only skater change in place of Logan Day on the back end, played his first game in a week after dealing with an illness this week and made his presence count on the ice.

The lead would only last for a few minutes as Dalpe would tally a goal in addition to his efforts in the skills competition, throwing the puck on goal from a severe angle that got caught up in the right skate of Shepard and hit the back of the net to even the score at one. Dalpe, a noted scorer against the Bears in his career, wouldn’t be held off the board forever in the series despite getting a fortunate break on the goal for his 14th of the year.

Although special teams was the story, it wasn’t that way in the second period, with the Bears tallying a power-play goal. Matt Kiersted landed himself in the box for four minutes instead of two after receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for mouthing off to the officials about the initial call.

With only seconds to spare on the second penalty, Shane Gersich deflected a shot from Vincent Iorio and Guzda for his fourth of the campaign. Hershey’s forward unit was the same as a day earlier, and it was a nice showing for the Bears’ depth in this one.

However, the game shifted in the third period after the Bears could not capitalize on lengthy two-man advantages and potentially self-inflicted wounds by the Checkers. Charlotte took one penalty to put Hershey up by two men on a shorthanded rush three-on-one where a pick set on Frank made the call happen.

Hershey finished the power play with one goal in seven opportunities, but Charlotte always held the potential to come back on home ice. The missed opportunities loomed large as Bowlby evened the score on a blocked shot that landed right on his stick for his ninth of the season to send it to overtime, where the Bears survived a penalty kill to get to the skills competition. Charlotte scored twice, while Hershey only got one to slide the Checkers out of the game with the extra point.

Overall, it’s not a bad weekend for the Bears despite the result. Only netting one point keeps them one point back of the Providence Bruins, who suffered a regulation loss to Springfield on Sunday. Hershey’s lead over Charlotte in the standings is cut by one point to seven, with the Checkers at 62 to 69 for the Bears.

After some recent struggles, the Bears have parlayed a nice four-game point streak out of the weekend as their play has steadily improved back to where it was a month ago. Of note, Mike Sgarbossa had a great weekend for the Bears with an assist and four points in two games, giving him 45 in 45 games played. The Bears will be idle until Saturday when they take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to open a five-game homestand, while the Checkers will start a six-game road swing in Providence on Friday. The two teams meet up for a pair of games in early April before the season ends in what will surely be key divisional games.

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