With the triumph, the Bears improved to 4-0 in the post-season at home, and combined with their regular season record, the Chocolate and White are an ultra-impressive 38-4-0-2 on home ice.
In the second minute of the opening period, the teams traded three quality scoring opportunities, with Albany’s Steve Goertzen and Hershey’s Andrew Gordon and Keith Aucoin all being denied on their efforts.
Those three early bids would be the only ones of the period until just past the midway point. Hershey’s Ashton Rome rifled home the first goal of the game at 10:48 by wristing a short side shot past Albany netminder, Justin Peters.
“It was just off the faceoff,” Rome said. “We had a good forecheck and Wilson came around the wall and read the play very well. I saw him look at Bouch, and I yelled at him and he slid it right under their defenseman’s stick. I just caught the goalie sliding away from the post.”
Drayson Bowman, who netted Albany’s first goal of the game on Saturday night after the Bears had skated out to a 1-0 lead, duplicated that feat again by converting a Hershey turnover behind the goal line into his second goal of the series at 15:37.
Albany’s power play unit, which emerged from a playoff-long slumber with an extra man marker on Saturday night, struck for another only seven seconds into a Mathieu Perreault penalty when Zac Dalpe’s impressive long distance tip from the high slot eluded Neuvirth at 3:35.
Albany’s lead lasted less than two minutes before Alexandre Giroux generated the red light behind Peters, gathering in his own rebound and backhanding his seventh goal of the post-season into the cage at 5:15.
After Albany’s Goertzen took an interference penalty at 19:40 of the second stanza, the Bears were presented a chance to take the lead early in the period with a power play strike, but those plans took a wrong turn when Nick Dodge’s shorthanded goal gave the Rats another lead at 3-2.
With his power play unit sputtering of late, and with Dodge’s strike fresh in his mind, Hershey coach, Mark French, considered dismantling his high powered group when Bryan Rodney was assessed a penalty at 2:15. However, he elected to ride it out and the unit responded in positive fashion, reeling off three consecutive power play goals.
“We were sort of frustrated as a power play unit,” admitted Gordon. “When we let that short-handed goal in, we felt like we let the boys down. I remember Giroux saying ‘we’ve got to get it done’.”
And get it done they did by simply, well, simplifying things.
“We started shooting the puck a little more than usual instead of looking for backdoor plays and tic tac toe stuff; it’s pretty simple when you get down to it with the power play situations. You have more guys than they do and you just need to shoot the puck,” said Gordon.
After the succession of power play goals, Hershey’s defensive corps, which was without the services of Greg Amadio and Sean Collins and consisted of relative newcomers Dylan Yeo and Johann Kroll, put the clamps on Albany’s offense, allowing Albany only three shots on net in the final half of the third period.
“It was definitely interesting. We found out they were both out late tonight and remembered that whatever happens in the playoffs, you have to be ready for it. Kroll and Yeo did a great job tonight. They didn’t miss a beat and they really contributed.” said Wellar who was teammates with Yeo earlier this season in South Carolina.
Wellar and Kroll also share a playing history that most likely made Sunday’s last minute changes a little bit smoother off a transition.
“Last year, we were D partners for the entire Kelly Cup winning playoffs, so there’s a lot of familiarity there. He’s a great player and it’s sad that he hasn’t been at this level all year because he’s a talent,” Wellar said.
Rome, a late season addition to the lineup from the ECHL, and whose brother, Aaron, won the Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, is giving everything he’s got with the chance he’s been given in Hershey.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity; I just tried to work hard all year because I thought I might get an opportunity. I got a little bit of an opportunity up in Toronto, but then Hershey called me. They told me there might be a chance of staying for the season, so I’ve just worked hard and did what I do best.”