PHILADELPHIA, PA- On a freaky Friday in Philadelphia, and haunted by a lack of discipline throughout much of the early portion of the game, the Hershey Bears were able to exorcise their demons and improve to 4-0 on the season, defeating the Philadelphia Phantoms, 5-4 at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Hershey’s parade to the penalty box started very early in the game when Alexandre Giroux took a slashing penalty in the neutral zone at 1:11. Philadelphia, while unable to connect on that power play opportunity, scored twenty-two seconds after Giroux was released, when Rob Bellamy’s wrist shot beat Hershey rookie goalie, Simeon Varlamov, at 3:33.
Hershey alternate captain, Dean Arsene, sent off for multiple infractions in the game by referee Francois St. Laurent, assessed Hershey’s game-long penalty problems. “At times we didn’t keep our composure; our discipline wasn’t that great, myself included,” Arsene said. “I took a couple (penalties) there that (with) better judgment, I shouldn’t have taken. It was one of those things, they were working pretty hard and they’ve got a good young team that battles hard,” he said.
Andrew Gordon, on a rare first period shift that did not see Hershey skating shorthanded, tied the game at 1-1 at 8:23, beating Philadelphia goalie Jean Sebastian Aubin from close range. “When you are in that tight, you have to make sure the puck gets upstairs as fast as you can against a guy like that,” Gordon said. “He’s a great goalie and he’s played in the NHL. When you get an opportunity like that against him, you have to make sure you put your shot in the right place and I was fortunate enough to get it done.”
Jonathan Matsumoto’s power play goal at 10:44, assisted by former Bears Boyd Kane and Danny Syvret, gave the Phantoms a 2-1 lead at 10:44.
Playing without power play quarterback Chris Bourque, who was recalled to the Washington Capitals earlier in the day, Hershey squandered a golden opportunity to tie the game late in the first period, when they failed to cash in on a 5-on-3 advantage. Hershey coach Bob Woods, commenting after the game, acknowledged that the absence of Bourque contributed to the power play woes. “You’ve got five guys out there who are pretty used to each other,” he said. “Any time you have to insert somebody else, there’s going to be an adjustment period.”
In the early part of the second period, and during the waning seconds of their sixth power play of the game, Philadelphia came within inches of taking a two-goal lead, when a shot rang off the post behind Varlamov. On Hershey’s ensuing rush down the ice, Quintin Laing’s deft deflection of a Dean Arsene point shot tied the game at 2-2 at 5:20. In addition to Arsene’s helper on the tally, defenseman Sean Collins, in his first action of the season, picked up the secondary assist.
Collins, who added a second assist later in the game, and was one of the few Hershey defenseman to be spared a trip to the penalty box, received praise from Woods after the game. “He was actually really good. It’s just with the numbers here, it’s been tough to get him in,” he said. “I had confidence that he was going to play well tonight and he did not let us down.”
Alexandre Giroux gave Hershey a 3-2 lead at 13:09; however, Giroux’s goal was countered just 15 seconds later by Danny Syvret on a very stoppable shot. Woods, while acknowledging that his young net-minder struggled at times in the game, liked the way he persevered. “A couple of bounces didn’t go his way, he’s still getting back. He had that injury and I still think he’s trying to get comfortable,” he said. “He made some big saves when he had to and found a way to win.”
Matsumoto’s second goal of the game at 18:16 on a 5-on-3 advantage, gave the Phantoms a 4-3 lead at 18:16, and put Hershey in a seemingly precarious position.
Despite finding his club in a negative situation, trailing going into the third period, Woods was able to find a positive in the seemingly negative situation. “We haven’t been in that situation too often so far this year. It’s nice to sit back and see how your team handles it,” he said.
Woods’ troops responded positively to the challenge, getting a goal from rookie Oskar Osala at 13:32 tied the game at 4-4. Osala, after gaining control of the puck in the Philadelphia zone, elected to take the scenic route, swooping down behind the Philadelphia net, and then travelling along the boards before circling near the blue line and launching a wrist shot that eluded Aubin.
Although it’s early in the season, and despite the abundance of high profile scorers in his lineup, Woods knows that the secret to his clubs success is it’s ability to get “down and dirty”. “Our success comes from getting the pucks deep and working other teams,” he said. “Once we started doing that and were able to do that, success started to happen for us.”
Osala’s goal, which gave Hershey a goal from a member of each of their four forward lines, showcased what makes defending them such a huge undertaking: a potent scoring threat on each line. “We like to see the offense spread out and I think that’s what makes us tough,” Woods said. “We have that depth and you can’t just shut down one line or two lines, you’ve gotta try to shut down four. That’s a strength we have this year.”
Buoyed by the Osala goal, Hershey maintained pressure on Aubin, who kept the game tied at 3-3 with an outstanding pad save on a Mathieu Perreault, shot with three minutes to go in regulation.
Not to be denied, the Chocolate and White persisted in their pursuit to get the go ahead goal, with Arsene lighting the lamp at 7:36 after Jay Beagle won the draw.
“Beagle told me right before, ‘Deano, it’s coming to you’, and I’m like alright. I was ready for it and just wanted to throw it on net,” Arsene said. “It came up, it was right on edge, and I pretty much just took a golf swing at it because I just wanted to get it down because their forward was coming out pretty hard.”
As the old saying goes, “It’s better to be lucky than good”, and that’s a sentiment that Arsene echoed when discussing his offensive exploits on this night. “That shot and the assist on Laing’s goal were probably two of the weakest shots I’ve ever taken,” he said, “but sometimes you get rewarded for just throwing it on net, and I was very lucky.”