Good News/Bad News Bears

HERSHEY, Pa. — In the wake of tonight’s 3-1 Albany River Rats win over the Hershey Bears at Giant Center, there was good news and bad news for the homestanding Bears. The good news: Hershey did not lose any ground in the AHL East Division standings. First-place Norfolk suffered a 4-1 setback at the hands of the Binghamton Senators in Elmira, NY on Saturday. Philadelphia put a 3-1 hurting on the third-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday. The bad news: the Bears missed an opportunity to gain ground on both of their chief divisional rivals.

After a six-day layoff the Bears actually started strong, controlling the first four minutes of the game. They spent virtually all that time in the offensive zone, outshooting the Rats 4-1 and forcing Albany to ice the puck twice. But unfortunately for the Bears, Matt Hendricks was whistled for a high-sticking call in the offensive end at 4:03 of the first period, and the game was decided within the very next minute.

Albany’s power play, lifted by the presence of left wing Antti Laaksonen and defenseman Anton Babchuk, converted at 4:44 when Matt Murley pounced on a rebound in front and ripped it past Bears netminder Nolan Schaefer for his 14th goal of the season. Laaksonen and Babchuk both joined the Rats this week after reassignments from Colorado and Carolina, respectively.

Fifteen seconds and one shot on goal later, the Rats doubled their lead on Jakub Petruzalek’s eighth goal of the season. That would be all the offense the Rats and goaltender Tyler Weiman would require.

“I thought we played real well in the first few minutes,” said Bears center David Steckel after the game. “We came out hard and guys were excited. It was an unfortunate high-sticking call, but you can’t have offensive zone penalties. They did a great job on that power play. They got it in, they attacked the net and they got a great rebound goal. That goal just kind of took the wind out of our sails. All of a sudden we’re sitting back and we’re starting to panic, maybe because we haven’t played in six days. We have to turn that around.”

The Bears had a chance to get back into the game with a power play of their own just 28 seconds after Petruzalek’s goal, but weren’t able to sustain any sort of attack.

The normally buoyant Hershey crowd turned on the home team not even midway through the first frame, venting its frustrations with a throaty chorus of boos. That did not sit well with Hershey coach Bruce Boudreau, and he rightfully and honestly vented his own frustrations after the game.

“We’re halfway through the first period and I’m a little ticked off because we’re getting booed by 10,000 people,” said Boudreau. “Let’s give ourselves a break. We’ve only lost two games at home all year. [The Bears] play their ass off every frigging night and we’ve got some fair weather fans out there booing us and it just pissed me off quite frankly. Here we are in the first period. We’ve come back so many times and yet these guys have the temerity to boo the goalie, who had absolutely no chance on any of the goals and he played unbelievable to keep us in it in the second period. Those people, they can stay home if they just want to come here and vent. We’ve got the greatest fans in the world, I’m convinced of that. But these guys that come in and think that you’re going to win 40 [home games] in a row, and they don’t want to support the club, it just pisses me off. Sorry.”

Hershey had some shorthanded opportunities in the first, but was unable to get a clean shot on goal despite a pair of odd-man breaks. Another Hershey power play late in the first did not bear fruit, either.

The Rats caught the Bears napping in the early seconds of the second, increasing their lead in the process. Playing in just his second AHL game since he skated with Providence in 1999-00, Laaksonen scored his third goal in two nights, roofing a wrister that gave the Rats a 3-0 advantage. In two games with Albany, Laaksonen has matched the production (three goals, one assist) he delivered in 41 games with the Avalanche this season.

Hershey’s Louis Robitaille woke up the sellout crowd of 10,598 and his teammates when he decisively tuned up Albany’s Kevin Estrada eight minutes into the second period. From that point on, Hershey outshot the Rats 25-10, but it wasn’t enough. Several Bears shots whistled wide or high, some by narrow margins. Weiman was able to stop almost all of the others.

The lone chink in Weiman’s armor came with 2:28 left in the second. Hershey’s Jakub Klepis mugged Albany captain Keith Aucoin in the corner, stripping the Albany center of the puck. Klepis skated out and fed a perfect pass to Kip Brennan in the high slot. Brennan one-timed a wrist shot that beat Weiman high to the glove side, narrowing the Albany lead to 3-1.

The Bears outshot the Rats 19-5 in the third, but weren’t able to cash in on some strong chances. Chad Wiseman had two of the best opportunities, but he was unable to get elevation on a shot in a one-on-one situation with Weiman. Steckel had a one-timer bid shank off the heel of his stick late in the third.

“We had a lot of shots, even in the first,” stated Steckel. “I didn’t think we hit the net enough tonight, and we needed a little more traffic [in front]. As soon as they got the two-goal lead, it seemed like they sat back and they always had four guys [back]. It took us a while to figure out that we needed to get the puck deep and chase after it. They played a great game. They did what they needed to do and it’s a great road win for them.”

Albany’s victory on Saturday was its first over Hershey since March 28, 2004, ending a remarkable run of 19 straight Bear victories.

“You talk about the law of averages, but at the start of the game each team has a 50 percent chance of winning,” said Boudreau. “They don’t have a better chance of winning because we beat them 19 times in a row. If as a team we had come prepared mentally individually, then I think we’ve got a better chance. We didn’t wake up until halfway through the second period, and by then it was too late. Once you give a team that hasn’t won in a long time, you give them that little edge and they score the first goal, instead of going, ‘Aw man, here we go again,’ they’re going, ‘We’ve got a chance.’ They dig deep and they played a tremendous game from the goaltender on out. We didn’t deserve to win tonight, and I don’t know if it’s my fault — it’s probably a little bit my fault and a little bit the players’ fault — that we weren’t as well prepared as we should have been.”

The Bears host Hamilton on Sunday, bringing in a stellar 15-3-3-4 home record. The Bulldogs will be a formidable foe. The second place team in the North Division, Hamilton is three points behind frontrunning Rochester. The Bulldogs are 12-10-1-1 on the road this season.

“We have at least two games (actually, three) in hand on Norfolk, and Wilkes-Barre is just a game behind,” said Steckel. “It was a chance for us to pick up points and we needed to capitalize on that. Hamilton is not going to make it easy [on Sunday] coming into the building. We need to turn it around overnight and put a full 60 minutes together.”

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9 Comments on “Good News/Bad News Bears”

  1. I love the bears Says:

    Like i said prior, the Rats came in with one thing on their mind and that was to end a very long losing streak with the bears, while the bears came in with the we beat them 19 times in a row game. You have to think like a Rat, what would you do if you were beaten by the bears 19 times in a row, you will put your game face on and skate until your skates came off, you will shot hard and fast until your high in the scores and that is what they did. Its okay Bears, it was bond to happen I am just sorry that there were thows who thought to boo….not good. But you are a great team. Just get your head back into the game and you will be fine. You are the come back boys….you always come back from behind, we all can have a bad night…..lets win tonight against the Bulldogs, I have faith in you, you need to have faith in yourself….GOOOO BEEEAAARRSS

  2. Betsy Says:

    If “fans” prefer to be low rent and wish to spend their time and money booing, perhaps they should stay home and watch TV. The Bears – and other athletes – deserve better.

  3. Jen Says:

    It is a new day and a new chance at victory, shake off all of the negitive energy from last night, and go out there and win one. Remember you are a team made up of individuals who have one goal in mind. We as fans will be behind you no matter what happens and we support you to the end. Go Bears!!!!

  4. Dan Nelson Says:

    Go Bears, dont worry about the fairweather one-a-day fans that try to come into our house and complain about how we play!

  5. Abbey Says:

    Every game brings new challenges we have to face, but as a team, you guys seem to conquer every single one. It may take a few games, but I have never been let down by any of you. Real fans see how much heart you put into this team, and we’re behind you every step of the way…no matter what! The only thing that we ask is you never give up or lose faith in yourselves, or in us. Don’t let the actions of a few fans affect your opinion of all of us. Just go out there and love this game, because we all do. GO BEARS!

  6. Joe Says:

    It was not a good weekend for the Bears or thier fans. Saturdays was not thier best game and Sundays was a hard fought loss. After hearing that Boudreau was “ticked off” about the fans booing the team and especially the goalie Scheafer I find it hard to believe he would blast Daigneault the next game by saying he did not think they had great goaltending. The fans have the right to be critical of the team just like the coach does. Maybe we all are expecting too much every game. This should serve as a wake up call to the coach, the team, and the fans that the Bears are defending Calder Cup Champions and have not won The Cup this year yet.

  7. Kath Says:

    I’m with you, Boudreau. Those people booing for the Bears tick me off, too! I’m a true fan of the Bears, and I’m at the games to cheer them on. I don’t care if they win or lose, they’re my team! Sometimes I comment to other fans when I hear them booing and tell them I’d like to see them down there on the ice doing better (or falling on their behinds). (My Dad then tells me to be quiet or I’ll get in a fight!) Playing hockey takes a lot of skills, and the Bears have what it needs! B-E-A-R-S, Bears, Bears, Bears, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

  8. ron jordan Says:

    i’m with the bears all the way i cant believe people that live in hershey are booing these guys like that.i mean i drive 2 hours from baltimore to go see these guys every single game i mean come on now these guys have been playin there butts off for us all year long………………go bears goooo

  9. Fred Fisher Says:

    I’ve been a Bears fan for the past 59 seasons and don’t intend to let a game like the Albany loss change my team loyalty. In my opinion, although it seemed like the fans were booing the goalie, I think the fans were really booing the defense (or rather the lack of it). As I saw it the defense left the goalie hang out to dry. Coach Boudreau was quite correct in his statement that the goalie had no chance on those shots. Keep up the good work Bears, we will follow you through the playoffs.


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