The Hershey Bliss had a successful week, posting a 4-2 record to strengthen their hold on second place in the East. However, they also suffered a devastating injury that may deal a major blow to their hopes of contention.
During Friday’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves, LW Lance Sweet crumpled into a heap after blocking a shot and wound up limping off the ice. He was later diagnosed with a major lower-body injury, and is expected to be out up to a month.
“It’s a tough one for us to take, obviously,” said Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber. “Lance is a huge part of our team. We’re going to need to step it up as a team in his absence.”
Sweet is a member of the “Love Line,” the trio that has been responsible for a major chunk of Hershey’s offense this season. Sweet himself is second on the team in goals (with 14) and tied for third in assists (with 12). The three players that make up the Love Line – Sweet, C Justin Valentine, and RW Christopher Hart – have played together for years and are known around the league for their chemistry and intuitive connection.
“When Lance went down, my heart just sank,” said Valentine. “He’s a tough guy, so I knew it was bad.”
Barber said that he plans to accommodate Sweet’s loss by elevating second-line LW Russell Nahorniak to join Valentine and Hart on the top line, while reserve F Glenn Reichler will slide into Nahorniak’s old slot on the second line. “Russman’s done a good job for us, and I think he’ll be able to step in next to Justin and Harty and not miss a beat,” said Barber. The team is also likely to explore a trade in order to provide a longer-term fix.
For his part, Sweet intends to defy projections and get back sooner than expected. “Obviously, I’m going to take my rehab seriously,” said Sweet. “But I’m going to get back as quick as I can. I’d much rather be on the ice than on the trainer’s table.”
There is one bright side for Sweet, however: several female Hershey fans have offered to help nurse the injured winger back to health.