The Amerks loss to the Hershey Bears can be looked at a few ways but the best way to look at it is that this team has a lot of heart, character and a never say die attitude that’s awesome to watch. After two periods the Bears were winning the game and had a 36-9 advantage in shots, they had a 15-3 advantage after the first period. The game appeared to be a game of kids amongst men but it was still only 2-0 after 40 minutes with plenty of time for the Amerks to make it a game. They did just that 15 seconds into the third period and then tied it up with 61 seconds left on the scoreboard to send the game into overtime and the eventual shootout.
(photo courtesy of Sweetest Hockey on Earth, a Hershey Bears site similar to this one)
It was a successful weekend for the Amerks picking up four out of a possible six points in the standings. They lost in the shootout on Friday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and defeated the Binghamton Senators on Saturday. I’ve often said not so nice things about the quality of video that you get purchasing an away game on AHL Live but the service has improved drastically this season and with the way this team has been playing the $6.99 is well worth it if you can afford it.
Back to the game.. The Bears controlled just about every aspect of the game, it often looked like they were on the powerplay when the teams were at even strength. The Amerks just could not get it out of their own end. Hershey took advantage of just about every loose puck or misplay that occurred on the ice. At one point TJ Brennan tried to take an extra stride into the Bears zone to get the puck but was beat to it and the Bears took it the other direction for a fast break. David Leggio was great all night stopping that fast break and eventually making 49 saves by the time the night was over.
Patrick McNeill scored first for the Bears at 5:56 of the second period with a shot from center ice near the top of the face off circle. Leggio appeared screened on the power play goal and didn’t get a view of it. Even if he wasn’t screened it was an excellent shot by McNeill. Christian Hanson scored a shorthanded goal at 11:32 of the second period. David Leggio made the first save but the rebound went behind the net where Hanson shot it back and it appeared to go off of Leggio and in.
The game was almost 2-1 in the second period when Corey Tropp put the puck past Holtby but it was waived off due to a penalty called on the Amerks.
Zack Kassian has made his return known tallying two goals and an assist on Sunday and on Saturday he had one assist. Kassian got the Amerks within one goal off of the first face off of the third period scoring 15 seconds in. Paul Szczechura won the initial face off and got the puck to Phil Varone. Varone brought the puck up the boards into the Bears zone and passed the puck to Kassian who was skating in down the middle where he was able to get off an initial shot and then tapped in his own rebound as it dropped next to the post. The goal was part hard work and part Braden Holtby not able to control the puck. It was a power play goal off a Bears penalty from the 2nd that carried into the 3rd.
It could have been very easy for the Amerks to start to slow down after being ran all over the ice but they did the opposite, they came out with fresh legs and made it a hockey game. The Sunday afternoon game of a three in three weekend for teams can often be a snooze fest but this game was far from that.
TJ Brennan scored another power play goal at 4:26 of the third period to tie the game 2-2 with assists to Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno. Kassian was along the boards and with a backhanded behind the back pass got it to Brennan who took it to the slot and put a wrist shot past Holtby. Excellent pass by Kassian and even better shot by Brennan who was trailing the play.
After that Brennan goal the Hershey Bears took a timeout to try and settle themselves as the game was finally going in the Amerks direction.
The Bears took a 3-2 lead at 12:55 of the third period when Patrick McNeill scored his second goal of the game with a slap shot that appeared to hit the right post and go into the net.
Something finally went in favor of the Amerks when the Bears iced the puck with 1:19 left in the third period. It gave them a great opportunity to take Leggio off of the ice with the face off at the other end.
Paul Szczechura took the face off and won it which set the game winning goal in motion. The Amerks got off a couple of shots and they were able to move the puck around the Bears zone before it eventually got to the stick of TJ Brennan. From the blue line Brennan passed it across the ice to Alex Biega who fired a shot from the point. Holtby made the initial save but the puck fell dead to the ice where Zack Kassian was camped out waiting and put it into the net to tie the game 3-3 with only 61 seconds left on the clock.
The game could’ve been over in regulation at that point but for the next 61 seconds both teams continued playing going for the win instead of the guaranteed one point but neither scored and it went to overtime.
Jacob MicFlikier was given a penalty shot only seven seconds into OT after supposedly being taken down by Joe Finley. We all know Finley’s a legend but the way his stick was on MicFlikier and the way MicFlikier went down is debatable. Finley’s stick was up and on him but I don’t see how it sent him to the ice like it did. Either way, Leggio came up big making the save.
Shaone Morrisonn was called for tripping at 3:52 in overtime to give the Bears a four on three advantage for the rest of the overtime session. The Amerks were able to fend off the Bears to send it into a shootout. It was a bad penalty to take in overtime but at the same time it may have prevented a goal by the Bears player streaking across the blue line with the puck.
In the shootout Zack Kassian was the only player to score but TJ Brennan and Paul Szczechura both came close hitting posts. Corey Tropp and Derek Whitmore also made attempts.
Keith Aucoin and Cody Eakin scored for the Bears in the skills competition for the win. Ryan Potulny and Kyle Greentree also made attempts.
A few other notes..
** After this game it’s probably safe to say that David Leggio will get the start on Friday when the Amerks play the Toronto Marlies. Leggio was impressive with 49 saves on the night. The goals that were scored on him were excellent shots by skilled Bears players.
** As the game was winding down Igor Gongalsky left the game after colliding knee to knee with Jacob MicFlikier. Questionable play by MicFlikier who appeared to stick his leg out to slow down Gongalsky. No word on the extent of the injury.
** Maxime Legault also didn’t appear to play at all or very little after the first period. No other info available right now on that.
** Rochester finished the weekend with four out of six points, a win and two shootout losses. It’s another one goal loss but shows again how close this team could be with another goal scorer. The team is still far away from being considered an “elite team” like the Bears but they’re competitive and that’s what matters.
** The team is now tied for 8th place in the Western Conference with the Peoria Rivermen, both teams are at 39 points. The Hamilton Bulldogs are only two points behind the Amerks. It’s likely going to continue to be a close race for the second half of the season and every one of these points will make important.
** It looks like tickets are selling well for games next weekend against Toronto and Hamilton so if you haven’t purchased them yet I’d do that now to get some decent seats and avoid any last minute lines.