HERSHEY, Pa. – The Hershey Bears threw everything and the kitchen sink at goaltender Spencer Knight and the Charlotte Checkers at Giant Center on Wednesday night, but the goaltender turned aside all 44 shots he faced and lifted his team to a 3-0 lead courtesy of a pair of empty-net goals. The win narrowly lifts the Checkers into fourth place in the Atlantic Division as the spiral for the Bears continued prior to a pair of important road games this weekend. Pheonix Copley was the game’s second star with 25 saves on 26 shots, with the lone goal coming from the stick of Logan Hutsko in the second period. It was just the second time this season the Bears have been blanked at home.
The Bears were not without their own storylines for this game, which saw the return of several key players including forwards Garrett Pilon and Brian Pinho returning from the injured list. It was Hershey’s most complete lineup they’ve been able to put on the ice for some time, which saw Kody Clark return to warm up for the game but not play. The Chocolate and White were still without defenders Lucas Johansen and Bobby Nardella as well as key scorer Mike Sgarbossa, and injuries to the Washington Capitals including top scorer Joe Snively will likely lead to recalls before the team takes the ice this weekend.
One sore spot for the Bears was the power play, which came up empty in five tries. Hershey once again faltered for two empty-net goals with Copley on the bench, repeating a trend in their last three home games of not finding that offense in crucial junctures. Strong goaltending from Copley kept the Bears in it at times, and big opportunities throughout the game will haunt the Bears including a back door tap in for Marcus Vela that just didn’t light the lamp in front of over 10,000 fans for this game.
“In games like tonight where it’s a goalie battle and you get five chances on the power play, your power play has to score,” Bears head coach Scott Allen said after the game. “Bottom line, power play has to score. Our six-on-five needs to be better. Those two areas, it’s a one-goal game, 44 shots on net, probably didn’t generate enough scoring opportunities with those 44 shots, but a disappointing loss for sure.”
“Trust me, I’m not disappointed overall. Both of our special teams have done a phenomenal job, we’re top ten in the league in both, so I want to make it clear that I’m not disappointed in our power play or our penalty kill. But we had to score tonight. When you go 0 for 5, you have to find a way to score and that was disappointing and that’s what we need to do in Springfield is score.”
The Bears will need a big weekend to prevent the season from slipping away in these key games, and with two games on the weekend against the Springfield Thunderbirds and the Hartford Wolf Pack, it doesn’t get any easier from here. A pair of wins would go a long way towards restoring confidence, and the Bears have played well enough defensively to earn some key wins. Getting the offense to supplement those efforts will be the key to winning on Friday night.
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