When the Hershey Bears dropped Game 3 of their best-of-5 series against Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, head coach Todd Nelson was eager to see how his team would respond to adversity. Two days later, the Bears scored six unanswered goals to knock off the Checkers and advance to the next round of the Calder Cup Playoff.
After sweeping Hartford in the following round, the Bears opened the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday against Rochester. It didn't take long for Nelson's squad to face adversity again, as the Americans jumped out to a one-goal lead just 14 seconds into Game 1 before cruising to a 5-1 victory.
Once again, the Bears countered with a punch of their own. Hershey shut out Rochester on Thursday night behind 24 saves from netminder Hunter Shepard -- his first clean sheet of the postseason -- to knock of the Americans, 2-0, and even the series at one game apiece.
The series now shifts to Rochester, where Game 3 and Game 4 will be played on Saturday and Monday, respectively, before the series returns to GIANT Center for Game 5 in Chocolatetown.
Here are some notes from Game 2...
- Shepard was Hershey's best player on Thursday night, stopping 100% of Rochester's shots. But his play was especially outstanding in the opening frame, as he made several timely saves (10 total in the first period) to keep the score even at zero while Hershey's attack came out slow
- The Bears were without Mike Sgarbossa, who led the team in points (58) this season, for the fifth straight game. His replacement, Henrik Borgstrom, has stepped in admirably in Sgarbossa's absence, including Hershey's opening goal on Thursday evening. In five games since Sgarbossa went down, Borgstrom has tallied a pair of goals and assists each
- Just minutes after Borgstrom broke the scoreless tie, Beck Malenstyn doubled Hershey's lead with his third goal of the postseason. Malenstyn joined three other Bears players -- Mason Morelli, Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas -- that have scored three-plus goals in the playoffs
- Move over, XFL beer snake. The towel chain is here. The Bears faithful in GIANT Center were given rally towels prior to Thursday's puck drop and certainly made the most of them. Take a look:
- Rochester, the AHL affiliate of Buffalo, added one of the Sabres' top prospects to their lineup before Game 2. That would be Matthew Savoie, the ninth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, who joined the squad after his WHL team was eliminated from their postseason run earlier this week. Savoie made his professional debut on Thursday night on Rochester's fourth line playing left wing alongside Brendan Warren and Kohen Olischefski
- Hershey has now won seven of their nine playoff games. Shepard has kept the opponent to two goals or fewer in eight of those contests