If someone had said after the opening week that the Hershey Bears would not only be at .500 in November, but that their excellent special teams play would be key to that success, they would have been laughed right out of the Giant Center. However, here we are, with those same Hershey Bears overcoming the odds to do exactly that.
The Bears did not have a great opening to their season, both in terms of their losses and their special teams play. They struggled on the power play, specifically, and gave up their fair share of goals on the penalty kill, as well. Those same Hershey Bears seem to have successfully flipped the script, earning points in eight of their last ten games, and having one of the hotter penalty kills in the AHL at this time. Including play from this past weekend, Hershey is currently on a streak that has seen them post a perfect 20/20 on the penalty kill over the last three games. They also scored their first power play goal at home during that stretch.
The special teams play was on fire from the start, as a hooking penalty on Springfield’s Harry Zolnierczyk resulted in Hershey’s first power play goal from the stick of Jayson Megna, who shone throughout the entirety of the game on both ends of the ice. The hits came double-time in the first period, as yet another power play resulted in a goal, this time from returning Bear Nathan Walker, back from Washington for the first time this season, who took Pilon’s shot off the thigh for the deflection goal at 12:13 in the first frame.
It wasn’t all gumdrops and rainbows for the chocolate and white, however, as Springfield would narrow the gap just over two minutes later, to finish the period down 2-1. Though the Bears committed a total of seven penalties throughout the evening, they were able to fight off every attempt on goal when shorthanded. The same cannot be said for 5-on-5 play, where Springfield was able to pot two of their own, leading to a tense finish down the stretch, accompanied by two play reviews to determine whether Hershey would be staring down another tied game in the third period. However, their successes in scoring on the man-advantage and killing off penalties ensured that the Bears not only never trailed in the contest, but came out on top in their first of six meetings with the Thunderbirds this season.
These Bears have come a long way after opening their season with five consecutive losses and a lackluster special teams. Head Coach Spencer Carbery seems to be flexing his winning muscles, as Hershey is playing what is arguably their best all-around hockey so far. Fans of the sweetest team on Earth have the opportunity to watch their team continue these winning ways Sunday evening against the Syracuse Crunch on AHL TV and on local radio stations FM 100.1 and AM 1460. Puck drops at 5:00 p.m.