The 2020 SHL season officially started just after noon Eastern time on Sunday, when the Hershey Bliss and Boston Badgers faced off at the Chocolate Center. Prior to the game, the Bliss started a pool on which player would score the season’s first goal, recording their predictions and dollar amounts on a white board in the locker room. C Justin Valentine and LW Lance Sweet were the most popular picks. In the visiting clubhouse, the Badgers didn’t have a similar pool going, but their players were equally aware of the possibility.
“Scoring the first goal of the season… that would be a really awesome way to begin,” said C Alain Beauchesne.
Little did the Badgers or Bliss realize that 65 minutes would pass without either team lighting the lamp. No one collected on Hershey’s first-goal pool, as the game ended with the same 0-0 score as it started.
“You know how they say that a tie is like kissing your sister?” said Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber. “This game was like marrying your sister.”
Both teams had their chances to score. In the first five minutes of the game, Valentine and RW Christopher Hart got loose on an odd-man rush. Hart fed the pass to Valentine in the slot, and the center fired a shot toward the upper-right corner of the net. Badgers goalie Roger Orion, though, stuck out his glove and snagged the blast.
“I was already counting my winnings in my head,” said Valentine ruefully.
Later in the period, Hershey D Wayne Snelling was penalized for interference, putting Boston on the power play. Badgers LW Lix Darnholm fired a laser beam of a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle. Bliss netminder Christien Adamsson got a piece of the shot, but it trickled behind him toward the goal line. Fortunately for the Bliss, Adamsson fell back on the puck before the Badgers could jam it home.
After a fairly sleepy first forty minutes – Hershey had 14 shots across the first two periods, and Boston only nine – the action picked up in the third. Unfortunately for both teams, the frustrations piled up as well. On three separate occasions, the Bliss fired shots that hit the post, two of them by Sweet. On the Boston side, C Derek Humplik fired a shot that beat Adamsson, but pinged off the crossbar.
“It just seemed like there was some invisible force keeping it out of the net,” said Badgers coach Kyle Barrow. “It was pretty annoying.”
In the overtime session, Boston dominated the play, outshooting Hershey 6-1. But they still couldn’t dent the scoreboard. The closest attempt was a Beauchesne slapshot that sailed just above the net.
After the game, Barber praised the play of Adamsson, who turned aside all 25 Boston shots in his Hershey debut. “This is exactly what we brought Christien here to do,” said Barber. “It’s not his fault that we couldn’t provide him any support.”
“Definitely a weird way to start the season,” said Valentine. “But you just have to put it behind you and move on. It’s not like we’re going to go scoreless for the whole season.”