Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Anemic attack haunts Bears in loss to IceCaps
French calls performance 'embarrassing' Anemic attack haunts Bears in loss to IceCaps BY KEVIN FREEMAN, Sports Staff
HERSHEY -- The Hershey Bears are a few games past the midpoint of the season and here's what we know.
In order to have any success, the Bears are going to have to grind out wins. They will not average four or five goals a game. They simply aren't built like that, rightly or wrongly.
Grinding out wins is OK, if you can do it.
The Bears are wearing the label but wearing it poorly.
Friday night was another example as the Bears could not come back from a one-goal deficit in the third period and fell, 3-1 to the St. John's IceCaps in front of a paid Giant Center crowd of 9,103 that was less than that number in actual attendance due to the late afternoon snow.
The loss was the Bears' third straight. Hershey is now 0-15 when trailing in the third period. They are 9-11-2-1 in one-goal games (which this one was prior to the IceCaps' empty-net goal in the final minute) and 9-13-2-1 on home ice.
In perhaps his most poignant postgame remarks this season, Hershey coach Mark French was baffled by his team's effort.
"For the life of me, I don't understand why work ethic and emotion would be a problem, since it was the first game of the weekend,'' he said. "Clearly, (St. John's) was the more urgent team.''
After a scoreless first period, St. John's took a 1-0 lead midway through the second when Patrice Cormier redirected Kael Mouillierat's shot past Hershey goalie Philipp Grubauer.
The Bears answered with a goal from Jon DiSalvatore, who converted Jeff Taffe's pass from the left corner, beating IceCaps goalie Eddie Pasquale and tying the game at 1-1.
That goal started a flurry of activity. Just 28 seconds later, Hershey's Garrett Mitchell and St. John's' Julien Melchiori traded punches. And 23 seconds later, Ben Maxwell took advantage of a Steve Oleksy turnover to give the IceCaps a 2-1 lead.
From there, the Bears couldn't find the tying goal.
"(St. John's) was able to counterpunch and there wasn't much life to us after that,'' French said. "We needed to respond.''
Mistakes will happen in games but the Bears have little margin for error, due to their lack of scoring.
"I told the guys I'm sick and tired of walking back into the dressing room (after the game) and hearing (opponents) announced for stars of the game,'' French said. "It's indicative of how our play has been at home. It's embarrassing.''
Grubauer did earn one of the three stars, stopping 25 of 27 shots.
So the question is, does French have the players to pull the Bears out of deficits when needed?
"It's not my job to be concerned with that,'' he said. "I'm not in charge of changing the personnel. My job is to coach the personnel and squeeze everything out of them. Tonight, that didn't happen.''
DiSalvatore said the solution isn't for each player to think he must change the team's course in tight situations. It must be done via a team system.
"We need every player pulling the rope equally,'' he said. "No guy should ever feel like he has to do it all himself. But every guy needs to bring his very best game.
"The onus should be on every player to raise his level of play but that doesn't mean individual stuff. It's doing it in the system we have established.''
Accomplishing that goal could mean the difference in making the playoffs or missing them.
Notes: Bears travel to Binghamton to play the Senators tonight at 7. It's Hershey's final game before the week-long All-Star break. All-Star activities, skills competition (Sunday) and game (Monday) are in Providence, R.I. Center Jeff Taffe, replacing the called-up Tomas Kundratek, is the lone Bear to take part. The skills competition with be broadcast on tape on the Comcast Network at 8 p.m. Sunday and on Root Sports at 5 p.m. Monday. The All-Star game will be televised live by the Comcast Network and Root Sports at 7 p.m. Monday. ... Grubauer, a member of the Reading Royals for much of the season, was fresh from participating in the ECHL All-Star Game on Wednesday in Colorado. He stopped 14 of 16 shots to help his team win, 7-3. ... Hershey's next game is Saturday, Feb. 2. They host Manchester (7 p.m.).