Saturday, January 07, 2012
Written by Dave Sottile
PHILADELPHIA – Time was the overriding theme inside the Hershey Bears’ dressing room at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
Chris Bourque needed just 28 seconds to open the scoring for Hershey in the American Hockey League’s Outdoor Classic.
Ben Holmstrom of the Adirondack Phantoms forced overtime by scoring an extra-attacker goal with 20.8 seconds left in the third period.
And Shane Harper capped the night in front of an AHL-record crowd of 45,653 by netting the deciding goal 58 ticks into extra time.
But after the Phantoms had beaten the Bears, 4-3, Hershey’s room was filled with talk of how only time will allow the team to fully appreciate what it experienced all day Friday. From the joyful morning skate right on through the postgame fireworks display, this was something special.
'Sting of the loss'
A stunning finish, though, just didn’t allow that feeling to come through at the moment.
“It’s one of those things that’s going to take some time,” Bears head coach Mark French said. “Just because it was played outdoors doesn’t mean you don’t feel the sting of the loss.
“Experience is great and the moment is great, but if you don’t define it the right way, it’s probably not going to have the same lasting memories.”
When Graham Mink’s power-play goal with 7:07 left in the third period gave the Bears a 3-2 lead, a storybook ending to a picture-perfect day seemed within reach.
But with goalie Michael Leighton on the Phantoms’ bench for an extra skater, Holmstrom one-timed a loose puck off a blocked shot. It sailed past Hershey netminder Braden Holtby, and a majority of the crowd went nuts.
The game was tied, but no sooner had OT begun than Harper’s breakaway score capped the Adirondack comeback.
'Coolest game I've ever played'
So much for Hershey’s happy ending.
“Obviously, in a couple days when we look back on it, we’ll say what a great time we had tonight,” said Bourque, who also had two assists. “Tonight it’s a little upsetting that we gave up a lead late like that in the third. But it was incredible. It was probably the coolest game I’ve ever played in.”
Maybe time will allow him and his teammates to enjoy it.
“Obviously, what an experience to be able to play in a game like this,” Mink said. “We’re disappointed that we lost, but I think everyone will look back on this and have fond memories. I know I will.
“Just to be part if it was pretty special, and to score that goal, I was really excited. I couldn’t believe it went in, almost. Another 20 seconds it would have held up, but oh well. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
SOAKING IT ALL IN
Bourque said there were times during the game that he found himself staring at the surroundings of the Philadelphia Phillies’ home stadium.
“When you look over your shoulder and see the big (video) screen there, and then you look around and the fans are pretty far away from you, but it’s still an incredible sight,” Bourque said. “It was kind of surreal at points and then you step on the ice and you’re back to the game.
“But sitting on the bench, you kind of wander. You see the moon right over us. That was pretty cool.”
French was struck by several things as he looked on from the Hershey bench.
“It was an interesting experience,” French said. “It’s a contrast from what we usually feel, where the fans are right on top of you. (Here), we had a good 50 yards from the fans.
“It was a different atmosphere, where you didn’t feel the same level of intensity behind you, but any time you had a chance to look around you, there were some awe-inspiring views.”
ANKLE INJURY FELLS WELLAR
Hershey defenseman Patrick Wellar was among the most excited Bears during Friday’s morning skate, soaking in every last moment. He even played catch with Keith Aucoin as the two baseball fans brought their gloves on the trip.
But Wellar’s night ended in the first period when he suffered a right ankle injury just 12:38 into the game after a hit from Adirondack’s Kevin Marshall.
“I stopped in front and just the way the rebound was played, guys were crashing the net,” said Wellar, who limped out of the dressing room at game’s end. “There was nowhere to go.
“I tried to brace myself at the last second but obviously with the momentum he had, (Marshall) pushed me right over. I was planted and the ankle rolled over.”
French said Wellar will be re-examined by Hershey medical personnel Saturday morning. X-rays were not taken at the ballpark, but the veteran blueliner said it was likely a sprain.
“It was a tough break,” Wellar said. “I would have liked to have been out there longer to help the guys out and experience it fully, but it happened.
“It could have been a lot worse. I’m just thankful that I was able to experience a little bit of it.”
Holtby finished with 40 saves, many of the spectacular variety, and he remained upbeat despite yielding the tying score late in regulation. “Those bounces happen when you throw a lot of pucks at the net like they did tonight,” Holtby said. “They’re going to get bounces, and that’s what their first three goals were.” … RW Mike Testwuide and C Luke Pither also scored for Adirondack. … French on the ice conditions: “They seemed to be good early, but they deteriorated pretty quickly. That’s to be expected.” … Hall-of-Fame D Ray Bourque, father of Hershey’s Chris Bourque, was among the record-setting crowd. … Mink on Holtby’s outing: “He played really great and bailed us out of a lot of situations. We wanted to get the win for him, but it wasn’t meant to be.” … Bears LW Kyle Greentree scored a goal against the team he played for as a rookie in 2007. “It was pretty special,” Greentree said, “but I would have traded that goal for a win.”