Sunday, March 28, 2010

Balanced Attack Grounds Pens

Every successful act has an understated line of supporting characters, and Saturday night for the Hershey Bears, their understudies proved to be the difference in their battle against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Karl Alzner, Andrew Joudrey, and Zach Miskovic each added single strikes around the game-winning goal by Hershey’s headliner, Alexandre Giroux, leading the Bears to their 4-2 win and their 55th triumph of the season.

The Penguins drew first blood while in short-handed mode when Tim Wallace wrestled the puck away from Chris Bourque deep in the Bears zone and then whipped a shot by Bears’ netminder, Jason Bacashihua, who was making his first home start since a February 20th outing against the Lake Erie Monsters.

“When they get the first goal on the first shot, it wakes you up a little bit,” Bacashihua said. “After that, I got run into, and it kind of rung my bell a little bit. You tell yourself as a goalie, they’ve only scored one, try not to let them get two. With a team like this, holding a team to two goals or less, you have a pretty good chance of winning.”

Zach Miskovic, a healthy scratch for Hershey head coach, Mark French, a night earlier, beat Pens’ goalie, John Curry, with a blueline blast to knot the contest at a goal apiece at 14:47. Miskovic’s marker, his fourth of the season, angled behind Curry after caroming off the skate of former Bear, Deryk Engelland.

“In that situation, I was just recovering a puck that the other player was trying to get out of the zone, and I was fortunate enough to cradle it in and get by the first guy and it went off their guy’s skate,” Miskovic said. “It was just luck of the draw.”

With Hershey captain, Bryan Helmer, in the penalty box to start the second period thanks to a roughing call incurred in the first period, Bacashihua committed highway robbery on WBS defenseman Steve Wagner’s shot from point-blank range, preventing the Pens from regaining control of the game.

Hershey came within inches of taking the lead in the third minute of the second period when Keith Aucoin’s shot struck the glove of Curry and then clanged off the post; but the persistent Pens, on their subsequent rush down the ice, gained a 2-1 lead when Eric Tangradi tallied his 15th goal at 3:34.

Alzner’s power play goal at 9:27 of the middle frame tied the game at two as the Bears employed a new strategy by aligning Alzner down low, away from his usual spot on the blue line.

“We had been talking about maybe using me in the slot for some passes from Aucoin there, and he gave me one that I got a little too excited for and just timed it a little bit off and was a little bit ahead of it,” Alzner explained.

“I was pretty upset about it, but Gordon did a great job getting the puck back and he found me. It’s a tough play, but it’s something guys practice a lot-putting pucks high in the net when you’re that close right inside the crease area.”

Alzner, who is in his second pro season and faces a bright future with the Washington Capitals in the coming years, knows full well how imperative the power play exposure is to the advancement of his career.

“It’s huge. That’s one thing I’ve struggled with, offensive confidence. I’ve, at times, put up numbers in juniors, and decent numbers last year for not playing too much power play down here, and I pretty happy with that,” Alzner said.

“I’ve got to find that part of my game because Washington likes a high-powered offense and they love a guy like Mike Green and if I can play a similar style to what he plays, that’s going to be beneficial for me.”

Giroux, while on a 2-on-1 with Aucoin, and after exhausting all passing options, reluctantly dribbled the puck behind Curry to give the Bears their first lead of the game at 15:28.

“I was trying to pass about 28 times to Coiner and I when I couldn’t, I just thought I’d let it go,” he said. “I tried to make a move and the goalie never moved or bit on anything. I was just lucky that it went in.”

During an elongated shift, the unlikely trio of Joudrey, Pinizzotto and Aucoin kept the Pens bottled up in their own zone, and combined for the eventual last goal of the game, with Joudrey backhanding his 14th goal of the season behind Curry at 8:52, and giving the Bears the final margin of victory.

Based on recent history, Saturday’s matchup between the two Keystone State clubs may very well have been a preview of things to come in the playoffs. However, no matter whom the Chocolate and White face in their Calder Cup pursuit, Miskovic is eager to get his first taste of playoff action.

“I’m ready for the next stretch here for what they call another season is what I’m hearing, so I’m ready for it. It will be exciting with this team.”

**Photo courtesy of Just Sports Photography**

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