Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bears Shoot Down Phantoms 1.7.12

Who knows what the cause was of the Chocolate and White sharpshooters firing wide of the target with great regularity early in the Hershey Bears’ rematch with the Adirondack Phantoms on Saturday night at Giant Center.

Perhaps it was a case of “Outdoor Classic hangover” from the previous night. Maybe it was simply a case of bad marksmanship, but whatever the reason, they eventually started hitting the bull’s-eye and attained a 5-2 win in a game that turned ugly late in the contest.

In an eerie twist, the Phantoms’ first goal of the game found the inside of the Bears’ net in the same manner as their opening strike in Fridays’ game- off a Hershey defenseman. But unlike Friday’s goal that went in off of Zach Miskovic, tonight’s tally bounced off of Miskovic’s partner Danny Richmond at 8:13.

Late in the first frame, with the Bears still scoreless on the evening, it looked like the visitors would enter the first intermission with no less than a one-goal lead when Ryan Potulny was sent to the penalty box for slashing at 18:49 by referee Ryan Hersey. However, Hershey’s terrific New England native twosome of Keith Aucoin and Chris Bourque combined for a shorthanded goal at 19:27.

The sequence started innocently enough with the Phantoms controlling the puck in the neutral zone, but then Aucoin separated a Phantom from the puck right in front of the official scorers’ table and then dished off a short pass to Bourque who took flight into their defensive zone. Bourque then proceeded to the inside of the left wing faceoff circle before buzzing a shot between the wickets of netminder Michael Leighton.

Early in the second period, the Bears took a 2-1 lead when Boyd Kane craftily deflected a Patrick McNeill point shot by Leighton at 2:29, but their lead lasted less than two minutes thanks to some brilliant work from Tyler Brown and Jason Akeson.

Brown and Akeson, after gaining entry into the Hershey zone, combined to execute a football-like crisscross pass maneuver that seemed to temporarily paralyze the home club, resulting in Brown receiving a pretty no-look pass from Akeson which he promptly put into the Hershey net at 3:57.

Seventy-two ticks of the scoreboard clock into the third period, Cullen Eddy tripped up Jacob Micflikier just inside the Phantoms’ blueline, which put the Bears’ league-leading power play unit into action, and fittingly it was Micflikier who found the back of net only six seconds into the manpower advantage to give the Bears a lead that they would not relinquish. Micflikier’s marker, his 13th of the season, broke a three-game goalless drought for the 5’8” native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who earlier in the game confronted 6’5” Phantoms’ forward Tom Sestito after he took a run at one of his Hershey teammates.

After the Micflikier goal, defensemen Julien Brouillette and Patrick McNeill dented the armor of Leighton within a two minute span to give the Bears their eventual 5-2 margin of victory.

However, like many of the 172 previous meetings between the clubs, this one was not going to end quietly. With 3:30 left in the game a bevy of bouts broke out on the ice, with some even on the bench. Featured among the mayhem was an encounter between Hershey enforcer Joel Rechlicz and Sestito, who was on the Adirondack bench at the time of the altercation. Sestito, who minutes earlier had turned down a chance to dance with Rechlicz after being slammed into the boards by the bruising winger, was willing to engage him on this occasion from the sanctuary of the bench.

When all the dust had settled from the fracas, referee Hersey had handed out 108 penalty minutes and game misconducts to Rechlicz and Sestito, as well as Richmond and Eddy.

Notes- Bourque’s goal was his 20th of the season and marked the fifth time in his career he has reached the 20-goal plateau.

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