The bounces and the breaks, which were both pivotal factors in the Hershey Bears’ loss to the Charlotte Checkers in game one of the series on Thursday night at Giant Center, went the way of the home club on Sunday evening at the same venue, as the Bears evened their East Division Semifinals series against the Charlotte Checkers with a 4-2 win.
In the first period, it was the bounces that were featured as the Checkers’ Jon Matsumoto and Chris Terry both pinged shots off the post behind Hershey netminder Braden Holtby, but it was the Bears who netted the only goal of the frame when defenseman Patrick McNeill’s backhanded shot bounced off the catching equipment of Charlotte netminder Justin Pogge at 12:02.
Fast forward to the second period and it was Bears gathering in their first two-goal lead of the contest, with Andrew Kozek authoring his first playoff goal at 4:25 after a nice keep-in by defenseman Dimitry Orlov, who earned the sole helper on Kozek’s caper.
The two-goal lead quickly wilted down to a single goal when Zac Dalpe dented the twine for the second time in as many games against the Bears, but Brian Willsie willed the Bears back to another two-goal lead at 7:08. Willsie’s initial attempt was blocked by Checkers’ forward Jacob Micflikier, but he then gathered in the loose biscuit and blazed a wrist shot by the glove hand of Pogge.
Dalpe was at it again later in the frame and fired a shot by Holtby with the Checkers on the power play while the Bears’ keeper was apparently distracted by Matsumoto lying in his crease; but the Bears once again bounced back, building their third and final two-goal lead of the game at 17:05, with defenseman Sheldon Souray doing the honors with the Bears in shorthanded mode. Souray, on an odd man jaunt onto the Checkers’ zone, took a short pass from Steve Pinizzotto and then fired a missile by the helpless Pogge, who futilely waved his glove hand at Souray’s salvo.
In the third period, the Checkers picked up their offensive pace, and apparently scored a goal in the final minute of play, but after a consultation among the officials, the goal was waved off due to coincidental minor penalties assessed to Dalpe and Souray.
The series locale switches to the Tarheel State this week, with games scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.