On a night where a franchise record 20,662 stuffed animals were donated to charity, the Hershey Bears organization also saw a milestone achieved by one of its newest players.
22-year-old rookie Zach Sanford scored his first professional goal during Hershey’s 4-2 victory over Syracuse, Sunday night. After Nathan Walker forced a turnover, the Australian hit Sanford with a pass in front of the crease. Sanford then beat Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis with a pinpoint perfect shot over the blocker 23 seconds into the third period. The goal made it 2-0 Hershey.
The goal came in Sanford’s third game with Hershey after improbably beginning the season with Washington. He posed with his milestone puck after the game.
Photo: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey
“It was a good feeling,” Sanford said to Chocolate Hockey. “Walker had been working hard all night. One finally popped out to me and I was finally able to put it in the back of the net.”
The Capitals optioned Sanford to Hershey Wednesday for Jakub Vrana after only tallying one point — an assist on a Brett Connolly goal in October — during his first 19 games in the NHL. While Sanford showed flashes of brilliance at times, Trotz said the team wanted more speed in the lineup.
“He has played very, very well in a lot of areas,” Barry Trotz said to the media in October. “He is still making plays. You always look for a player who doesn’t want the puck. He’s not there at all. He’s very detailed, he listens, he absorbs, and he’s getting some PK minutes. You put him on a line and he is one of the guys who can make a real good play off the wall, and his reads are pretty good. He just hasn’t got a reward for that. We’re always juggling development and long-term for Zach. We think he’s going to be a really good player for us. I know he’s going to be a good player for us, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing the right things and making sure he gets enough minutes.”
While the goal Sunday was the only point he tallied over the weekend, Sanford was much more aggressive shooting the puck, tallying eight shots on goal in three games. During his 19 games in the NHL, Sanford had only 17.
The Capitals will re-evaluate Sanford’s status on Tuesday after their game against Buffalo. According to Troy Mann, the Caps will either call Sanford back up or the rookie will play three more games in the AHL before another evaluation.
A photo posted by Chocolate Hockey (@chocolatehockey) on
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