Bliss Clinch Postseason, Complete Rebound from ’18 Fiasco

It’s been a long, strange trip for the Hershey Bliss over the last couple of seasons.  In 2017, the Bliss won the East for the first time, then stunned the heavily favored Anchorage Igloos in the Finals to win the Vandy.  Then last season, they got off to a mystifyingly awful start and never recovered, ultimately finishing fifth in a “nightmare” campaign that ended with the team starting a near-riot at a Sheetz.

This year, Hershey shook off the heartbreak and embarrassment of last season.  They ran the gantlet of a much more competitive East and survived the loss of LW Lance Sweet to a major lower-body injury.  And on Thursday, they officially completed their winding journey back to the postseason, beating the Hamilton Pistols 3-2 at Chocolate Center.

“It feels good to be back!” said Bliss coach Chip Barber.  “I’m so proud of our players for persevering and climbing all the way back.  We’ve been looking for Mister Goodbar for the last two seasons, and we finally found him!”

Lance Sweet

Sweet, who has been away from the Bliss while rehabilitating from his injury, joined his teammates in the locker room for the postgame celebration.  “I told everybody that we were going to win it all for Sweets, and this is step one on that journey,” said C Justin Valentine.  “Now, let’s not stop until we’ve got another Vandy!”

This season has been a particularly emotional one for goaltender Brandon Colt, on whose slender shoulders Hershey’s fortunes seem to hang.  In 2017, he was recognized as the Finals MVP after a brilliant performance to thwart the mighty Igloos.  Last year, he stumbled through a poor performance that left many around the league wondering if he was washed up.

The Bliss tried hard to find another starting goalie this offseason; when they wound up re-signing Colt to a one-year deal, it was viewed as a last resort.  But the veteran netminder rebounded with a solid performance that showed he’s far from finished, and he managed this in the face of personal tragedy; his parents both died in a house fire in the spring.

“I’ve been doing all right with things so far, but now all I can think about is that I wish I could call Mom and Dad and tell them about this,” said Colt, who choked up as he spoke to reporters.  “But I know they’re up in heaven and they’re watching, and I know they’re proud.”

In order to earn a trip to the Finals, they’ll need to make it through the division round first, and they’ll likely face a tough opponent in the Pistols, who will be eager to erase the memories of last year’s first-round loss to Quebec.  Hamilton will clinch their second straight trip to the playoffs with one more win or a New York loss.

“We have a ton of respect for those guys,” said Barber of the Pistols, “and we know they’re a real talented bunch.  It should be a doozy of a series, but we like our chances.  We’re looking forward to another crack at the big prize.  If we win the Vandy again, maybe we’ll see if we can turn it into a chocolate fountain!”

Game 59, Hamilton @ Hershey, Chocolate Center

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           0   0   2        2
Hershey            1   1   1        3

 
Hamilton               G   A PTS PIM +/-   Hershey                G   A PTS PIM +/-

Alexander       LW     1   1   2   0   0   Milton          D      0   0   0   0   0
Smyth           D      0   0   0   0   0   Valentine       C      0   2   2   0   0
Frye            C      1   0   1   0   0   Baldwin         D      0   1   1   0   1
Risch           D      0   1   1   2   0   Hart            RW     1   0   1   0   0
Lafayette       RW     0   1   1   0   0   Nahorniak       LW     1   0   1   0   0
Gunnarson       LW     0   0   0   2   0   Meloche         D      0   0   0   0   0
Mulligan        D      0   0   0   0   0   Kirkpatrick     C      0   1   1   0   1
Glasco          D      0   0   0   0   0   Montrechere     RW     0   0   0   0   0
Patterson       RW     0   0   0   0  -1   Danielsen       LW     0   0   0   0   0
Campbell        LW     0   0   0   0  -1   Aubin           D      0   0   0   0   0
Dyomin          D      0   0   0   0  -1   Kulkarov        D      0   0   0   0   1
Marais          C      0   0   0   0   0   Daniels         RW     1   0   1   4   1
Hampton         D      0   0   0   0  -1   Lapointe        F      0   0   0   0   0
Estabrook       F      0   0   0   0   0   Swindonburg     LW     0   0   0   2   1
Costello        C      0   0   0   0  -1   Cargill         D      0   1   1   2   0
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 2   3   5   4  -1   TOTALS                 3   5   8   8   1

Scratches:
HAM:  Constantine, Baker (DL), Klemmer
HSY:  Minnik, Chappelle, Ketterman, Sweet (DL)

 
Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            37    34    3  0.919

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Colt                29    27    2  0.931

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
00:12  HSY  Nahorniak (Valentine)

PENALTIES:
06:23  HSY  Cargill 2:00 (Diving)
15:22  HSY  Daniels 4:00 (Spearing)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
13:55  HSY  Hart (Cargill, Valentine)

PENALTIES:
05:03  HAM  Risch 2:00 (High-sticking)
11:54  HSY  Swindonburg 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
02:05  HAM  Alexander (Risch)
02:08  HAM  Frye (Lafayette, Alexander)
15:42  HSY  Daniels (Baldwin, Kirkpatrick)

PENALTIES:
11:56  HAM  Gunnarson 2:00 (High-sticking)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          10   7  12       29
Hershey           18   9  10       37

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Hamilton         0 for 3
Hershey          0 for 2

 
INJURIES
--------

None
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