AHL Showcase– It is almost the holidays but that is not what created the festive atmosphere at Verizon Center last night. The ice was down and ready for a hockey game in Washington, DC. The Hershey Bears vs the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL Showcase was on tap for a sold out crowd of 18,506. Braden Holtby and Dmitry Orlov felt right at home and received huge ovations pre-game. But the comfort quickly dissipated as the first Norfolk shot of the game hit the twine over Holtby’s glove hand ten seconds into the game. Brandon McMillan launched a shot with a defenseman in front just inside the blue line that eluded Holtby. Both teams exchanged powerplays but came up empty through the middle of the first period. At 13:54 Evan Barlow received a cross ice pass and buried it top right against Anderson to tie the game at 1.The period finished with an Admirals power play which gave some sustained pressure in the Hershey zone but Holtby stood strong until the horn.
The second period opened with some more back in forth play. Chances were pretty even at both ends of the ice but the teams started to get chippy after the whistle. The Bears and Admirals powerplay had yet to strike in a combined 10 attempts. The second period ended with Hershey having a one shot lead with a total of 20. The Bears were without Dmitry Orlov who suffered an upper body injury in the first period and would not return to the game.
The Bears got an early power play in the third on an Admirals cross checking penalty. This seemed to help Hershey set the tone early in the third. Play seemed to even out 5 on 5 with some rushes both ways. At 4:26 into the third period Ryan Potulny potted one in the back of the net to give the Bears a 2-1 lead. It was a shot from low in the circle that beat Anderson high. The Bears ended up with another powerplay midway through the stanza but just couldn’t break the powerplay drought. The Admirals started to apply pressure on Hershey but then a late penalty by Norfolk slowed that effort. Norfolk got Anderson to the bench and had a great chance with 20 seconds remaining on the clock but Holtby was square and swallowed it up. One last faceoff and the victory was sealed. Ryan Potulny earned first star honors with the game wining goal and Evan Barlow followed as the second star with his first period tally. Holtby earned the third star with 26 saves on 27 shots on the night. The Bears tallied 30 shots to Norfolk’s 27 in the game. Neither team could take advantage of the man advantage as Hershey went 0 for 8 and Norfolk 0 for 6. A very entertaining game was played for all the hockey starved fans in DC and they appreciated it greatly. The building was pretty loud for being of mixed company and Bears chants could be heard throughout the game.
Photo Courtesy of Carl Minieri
Evan Barlow- Evan Barlow’s one timer goal while practically falling to the ice in the first period of the AHL Showcase capped a great 2 weeks for him. Since being called up from Reading Evan has certainly been a key part of the speed that Hershey needs in their transition game. His snap shot off of Zach Hamill’s cross ice pass was perfectly placed above Anderson’s glove. Evan has 15 points in his 13 games with Reading this season and 3 points in 5 games with Hershey.
Photo Courtesy of Carl Minieri
12,501-It has become a tradition in Hershey to have a Teddy Bear Toss to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network. The game has created its own playoff atmosphere as all in attendance wait for that first Bears goal to launch bear after bear onto the ice. I wonder if the players get jacked up to try to be the one to start the stuffed animal bedlam. This year Kundratek won the pool with his second period goal and started the onslaught of 12,501 towards the ice. As a fan it is one of my favorite nights. The cause is wonderful and the childlike innocence of throwing a stuffed animal is unique and special. I also enjoy being absolutely pummeled by them as the animals that fall short of the ice usually cover the attendees in the first 5 or 6 rows. A sight to be seen but even better to experience.