The game of hockey can be a confusing one. You can think too much and get yourself into trouble, or you can not think and simply react where there’s a good possibility of the same fate occurring. Keeping it simple and doing a little of both, however, can sometimes help you come out of a situation relatively unscathed.
On Saturday night at Giant Center with Daren Machesney, a former Bear tending the twine for the Chocolate and White since April 12, 2009, the club simplified their game and gained a point in the standings by keeping the Syracuse Crunch’s shot total to a modest level, but ultimately fell in a shootout, 3-2.
“I was excited, not nervous,” said Machesney. “I’ve been through enough as a pro so that, I don’t want to say you get numb to it, but I enjoy these situations. As I get older, I appreciate everything that goes on now and just playing the game and getting a start. Obviously getting a chance to play in front of Hershey’s fans again was great. You just enjoy those types of things more when you get older. With the things that have gone on in my career, I didn’t know if I’d ever be back here. I would have really liked to get a win tonight, and it looks like I need to work on my shootouts, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Less than thirty seconds after the opening faceoff, Machesney faced a stern early test when Syracuse’s Mark Bell came in a alone on a breakaway, but fortunately for him, Bell misfired on his bid.
“'Stop it!’ I told myself,” said Machesney of his thoughts during that early attempt. “Don’t let him score because that’s not going to be a good start. If you think too much in this game you can get into trouble. I was just worried about making the save. I really didn’t have to make too many stops. They took care of the rest.”
Fortunately for Machesney, the Bears settled down a little after that early hiccup and got the game’s first goal when Chris Bourque, one of only two players in the Bears lineup who were in the lineup in his last start for the Bears, netted a goal at 5:12 by using a unique “slide and swing” maneuver to notch his 27th goal of the season. Bourque’s “banking of the biscuit” occurred exactly one minute after Kyle Greentree had his bid for the first goal of the game denied by Syracuse goaltender Igor Bobkov.
The Crunch tied the game up shortly after the Bourque when defenseman Kyle Cumiskey took advantage of a defensive zone turnover by Patrick Wellar and launched a shot in the direction of Machesney from his point position. Machesney appeared to have a clear line of sight on the attempt, but the puck appeared to carom off the stick of Mike Carman, with Cumiskey getting credit for an unassisted goal at 6:57.
Machesney made a quality save late in the period with the Crunch on a power play by short-circuiting Luca Caputi’s salvo from close range and kept the game deadlocked at one after twenty minutes.
Midway through the second period, the visitors took a 2-1 lead when Kyle Palmieri beat Machesney high to glove side at 9:09 on an odd-man rush. The sequence started with John Mitchell intercepting Cameron Schilling’s clearing attempt in the neutral zone and then proceeding into Bears’ territory on the rush with Palmieri, although it appeared that a Syracuse attacker who was already in the zone before the rush had cleared it, but the goal stood.
The Bears bounced back to tie the game before the end of the middle frame when Patrick McNeill roofed a shot behind a sprawling Bobkov at 17:07 with the Bears enjoying a power play created by a Syracuse bench penalty for having too many men on the ice.
“We were buzzing and moving around and creating a lot of seams,” said McNeill. “We had a couple chances to bury one earlier, but didn’t. I just snuck in back side, and I got a great pass from Greentree. I had a lot of net to work with, and I just had to fire it home.”
After a scoreless third period, the overtime session failed to settle the issue of which team was going to get the extra point, and the game went into the shootout. During the shootout festivities, Boyd Kane was the only Bear who solved Bobkov, but three of the four Crunch contestants beat Machesney which gave the visitors the win.
McNeill, who has played in front of Machesney wearing the Bears’ colors before tonight, said the Bears didn’t really adjust their defensive scheme to accommodate the veteran Machesney’s return to Giant Center.
“You come into every game pretty much the same,” said McNeill, who, along with his teammates, kept the Crunch to only 21 shots on goal in regulation. “We knew he’s got experience at this level and he’s done well at this level, so we knew we had a solid goaltender behind us. He played well, and we defended well and didn’t give up a ton of shots, but when we gave up the chances, he stuck in there and played well.”
Notes- The Bears signed goaltender Scott Greenham to a PTO before the game to backup Machesney. Greenham played his college hockey at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks where Kyle Greentree also played (2004-05-thru-2006-07)
Hershey scratched D.J. King, Jacob Micflikier, Christian Hanson, Graham Mink, Billy Ryan, Zach Miskovic, and Julien Brouillette. Brouillette was inactive for only the second time this season (game three of the season on October 14th at Norfolk).
Sean Collins was the only other player in the Bears’ lineup tonight who was in the lineup during Machesney’s last game with the club on April 12, 2009.