With the memory of Friday night’s loss still fresh in their minds, the Bears faced the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday for what would turn out to be a repeat performance. Despite incredible goaltending by David Leggio, Hershey fell to the Baby Penguins 4-2.
After a disappointing loss at the Mohegan Sun Arena two nights ago, Hershey looked to improve their home record and welcome the Baby Pens to one of the rowdiest rinks in the AHL.
“(Our home record) is a big concern.” Coach Mike Haviland said after Saturday’s game, “We have to get away from feeling comfortable at home… This building is the best building to play in. When teams come in here they think it’s an amazing thing. There’s 8,500, 10,000 people a night. It’s a great crowd. It’s a beautiful building. Teams are excited to play here. If you’re in the American Hockey League, you’re excited to play here. And we, for some reason, decide that we don’t want to play here. We just want to go through the motions here… We have to make this a tough building to come into.”
The Bears started Saturday night with zest as defenseman David Kolomatis and alternate captain Jeff Taffe drilled home two goals less than half way through the first period. It also didn’t take long for these teams’ dislike for each other to surface as five players were penalized for fighting and roughing in the first 20 minutes of the game. In a period that saw the home team out-shot 12-7, the Chocolate and White led the Penguins into the first intermission 2-0.
After an action-packed first period, the Bears lost control of the game. Chris Conner, Harry Zolnierczyk and Tom Kuhnhackl of W-B/Scranton all tallied goals in the second period.
“We stopped playing, we stopped moving our feet,” Coach Mike Haviland said of his team. “(The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) work hard, they chip pucks, they play a simple, simple game,” Haviland commented. “They wait for you to make mistakes, they frustrate you.”
Around the 12 minute mark of the third period, defenseman Chay Genoway fired a shot at goalie Jeff Deslauriers that faked out spectators and players alike–the lamp lit, the crowd cheered, but after review it was decided the puck never crossed the red line. Coach Haviland was among the number who thought the goal was good:
“I thought it went in… would have been a nice little break for us.”
With just two minutes left to play, the Penguins hammered the final nail in the coffin with a goal by Andrew Ebbett. A frustrating night for the entire Bears organization, but possibly none more so than goaltender Leggio. Named one of the three stars of Saturday’s game, Leggio’s magic mitts weren’t enough to drag his team back from a 2 goal deficit.
“The goalie makes unbelievable saves. If he wasn’t in there it could have been 6, 7,” Haviland commented on Leggio’s performance. “We have to play better in front of (Leggio). It’s not a goalie issue right now. We don’t have a goalie issue.”
“(The Club) is pulling guys in, we’re pulling guys out, we’re calling guys up now, we’re trying to send messages to guys, we’re benching guys, you’ve got to push buttons.”
Early on Saturday, The Bears announced they had recalled T.J. Syner from the Reading Royals, and the forward made his 2013-2014 Hershey debut that same night. Syner joined Hershey late in the 2011-2012 season after playing four years at the University of Massachusetts where he was a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award. He was among the players to make a positive impression on Coach Haviland on Saturday:
“We need speed. He’s been playing outstanding on all the reports we got… I thought he played great tonight. We need more speed in the lineup, we need to get up and get after teams, and I think speed kills. And certainly he and Walker were our best two guys up front tonight. They got up and got after it.”
Hershey dropped to 1-2-1-0 at home, and will meet the Norfolk Admirals at the GIANT Center today at 5pm.