Bears get back in groove
By Kevin Freeman, Sports Writer email@example.com
HERSHEY -- Cameron Schilling called it instinct.
That's what came into play when the Hershey Bears defenseman decided to leave his normal spot at the left point in the offensive zone and make a mad dash toward the net.
As Schilling closed in on the net, Mike Carman's pass met the tape on Schilling's stick.
In a flash, the puck was past Manchester goalie Martin Jones and the Bears had a 2-0 lead with 14 minutes to go in the third period.
Schilling's goal turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-1 victory for Hershey in front of 10,672 at the Giant Center on Saturday night.
The win, coming in the Bears' first game since the All-Star break, broke a four-game losing streak and represents what the team hopes is a better future than it faced prior to the break.
The Bears, who came into the game with the fewest shots per game than any team in the American Hockey League, finished with 44, a season-high. That included 19 in the second period, also a season-high. The shot total is evidence of a push to pull more offense out of the team, a goal for the second half of the season.
Although the 44 shots yielded only two goals, there was a sense that the team had significantly improved its chances for winning.
"We were able to dictate the tempo," Hershey coach Mark French said.
Key to that was Ryan Potulny's line, which included the two newest Bears, Peter LeBlanc and Casey Wellman, acquired this past week. French put the trio on the ice to start each of the three periods.
"They did a good job of establishing what we wanted to do," French said, "and get a territorial advantage and momentum at the start of the periods."
The Bears scored on their first shot when Barry Almeida barreled down the slot and drove a loose puck past Jones just 2:05 into the game. Later in the period, Jones prevented Hershey from taking a two-goal lead when he stacked his leg pads to thwart LeBlanc at the side of the net.
The Bears killed off a pair of Monarch power plays in the second period and peppered Jones with the 19 shots but couldn't increase their lead.
Five minutes into the third, Carman skated to the right circle in the offensive zone and began to assess his options.
"I got the puck from Mitchy [Garrett Mitchell] and I expected their defenseman to be on me but he gave me a few extra seconds," Carman said. "I was able to turn and get a good look at everybody and I saw Schills right away. I saw him sprint to the backdoor and I ended up getting lucky with the pass."
Schilling gave all the credit to Carman for the preciseness of the pass. Schilling did, certainly, take a bit of a chance. If the puck had ricocheted the other way, Schilling would have been caught too deep in the offensive zone, possibly resulting in an odd-man rush by the Monarchs.
"You can't think that way on the ice," he said. "Had it been later in the game, I might have thought about it more. I thought I could get there and trusted Carm to make the pass."
It worked out for Schilling and Carman and the goal was magnified when the Monarchs got a goal from Linden Vey with just under six minutes to play in the third. Hershey protected the narrow lead but got a scare when Manchester's Nick Deslauriers hit the post with 34 seconds left.
"We were concerned with having a full 60 minutes," Carman said. "Not 40, not 30, but really playing hard the whole game, and I think we accomplished that."
Notes: Hershey's Steve Oleksy fought Deslauriers in the second period. Oleksy was responding to a hard hit against Hershey's Mitchell by Deslauriers. ... The loss was Manchester's fourth straight, all coming on the road. ... Bears host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this afternoon with the opening faceoff at 2 p.m.n