The Hershey Bears took a tough 2-1 loss Saturday night against in-state rival Lehigh Valley. The lasting play of the game was not a goal or a save, but rather a hit that resulted in a ten-minute match penalty and an ejection.
In the second period, with the score tied at one, the Bears’ Colby Williams stepped up in the neutral zone on Lehigh Valley forward Danick Martel. What happened next was, unquestionably, controversial.
As Martel attempted to step around Williams, the Hershey defender put his shoulder down and annihilated Martel. Play immediately stopped, and the referees assessed a match penalty to Williams for a check to the head.
The principle point of contact is not clearly discernible in the video. Assuming Williams made contact with the head first instead of the chest, the criterion for calling an illegal check to the head is if the contact was avoidable.
AHL Rule 48.1 discusses Illegal Checks to the Head. What we're going to break down is the question "was this avoidable?" pic.twitter.com/XEGaFaPVwq
— Kyle Mace (@kyle_mace) January 14, 2018
Martel’s attempt to cut around Williams may have made the check appear worse. Additionally, in making a move, Martel lowered his head, putting himself more at risk. However, Williams took a bad angle, which contributed to the head contact.
The two options for referees in an illegal check to the head scenario are a two-minute minor or a match penalty. To become a match penalty, there must be intent to injure in the eyes of the referee.
It’s a judgement call, a tough one to make watching a play live. However, I don’t see intent to injure on this play, just a bad decision by Williams.
Playing with only five defensemen for the rest of the game, Hershey would give up a goal in the third period and fall 2-1.
Here’s the game recap, courtesy of the Bears:
Riley Barber scored on the power play, but Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ netminder Dustin Tokarski turned aside 29 of 30 shots to defeat the Hershey Bears, 2-1, on Saturday night at the PPL Center. The loss snapped Hershey’s five-game point streak.
Despite scoring just one goal, Hershey did not have a lack of chances. Nathan Walker was denied on a penalty shot at 16:02 of the first period after being hooked on a shorthanded break up ice.
In the fourth meeting at PPL Center this season, the Chocolate and White grabbed the lead at 6:47 of the second period. On Hershey’s first power play of the night, Barber was granted real estate from the left face-off circle to rip a shot low to the ice past Tokarski. The goal was Barber’s team-leading 12th of the season and Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs assisted.
Only 3:58 later, Lehigh Valley answered on a 2-on-1 rush. T.J. Brennan wristed a shot past the blocker of Hershey goaltender Vitek Vanecek to tie the contest at 1-1. Hershey later killed a five minute major penalty in the second period after Colby Williams was assessed a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of Danick Martel.
In the third period, the Phantoms grabbed the game-winner at 8:43. Moments after a ten-bell save made by Tokarski, the Phantoms countered and capitalized. Matt Read deflected a Reece Wilcox shot from the slot and beat Vanecek for the deciding marker.
The Bears outshot the Phantoms 30-24 on the night. Hershey went 1-for-4 on the power play while Lehigh Valley was 0-for-4. Hershey’s record now stands at 17-17-2-3.
Headline photo and h/t to @KyleMace for his great thread.
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